Ensure voice of Opp not smothered: Oppn to Naidu

Ensure voice of Opp not smothered: Oppn to Naidu

Image used for representative purpose. Photo credit: PTI

With Bills being passed without scrutiny by Parliamentary committees, 17 Opposition parties on Friday shot off a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu expressing "anguish and serious concern" over the manner in which the government is "hurriedly" passing legislations.

The letter, which has been signed by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, Trinamool's Derek O'Brien and Samajwadi Party's Ramgopal Yadav among others, said this was a "fundamental departure" from the "established practice and healthy traditions" of enacting legislation.

Other signatories include floor leaders of NCP, DMK, NCP,  CPI(M), CPI,  RJD, TDP, BSP, AAP, PDP,  Muslim League,  JDS and Kerala Congress (Mani). 

“The first Session of the 17th Lok Sabha has had 30 sittings. In this period, a dubious record has been set up. Fourteen Bills have been passed and none have been scrutinised by any Parliamentary Committee. Further, 11 more Bills have been listed for introduction, consideration and passing," it said. The session has now been extended till August 7 with the government saying that it wants to pass more legislation, 

The letter, which came a day after the government managed to pass the contentious Right to Information (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha despite Opposition demand for sending it to a Select Committee, asked Naidu to ensure that the voice of the opposition is “not smothered”.

TRS, whose floor leader K Keshav Rao signed the letter, however, had supported the government along with BJD and YSR Congress against sending the RTI Bill to a Select Committee. The BJD and YSR Congress, which are also not aligned either with NDA or UPA like the TRS, have not signed the letter.

Commenting on the first session of the new Lok Sabha, it said 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Lok Sabha had about 10 sittings each and only a handful of Bills, that had undergone parliamentary scrutiny, were passed. 

"Public consultation is a long established practice where Parliamentary committees scrutinise Bills, deliberate, engage and work towards improving the content and quality of the legislation," it said. It noted that that 60% of Bills during 14th Lok Sabha (2004-09), 71% of Bills during 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14) and 26% during 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19) were sent to committees.

The leaders also raised the issue of government not keen on short duration discussions and said in the four weeks of the session, only two such debates were allowed. 

The letter said MPs from 15 parties submitted a notice for a Short Duration Discussion on ‘How to strengthen freedom of press, as the media is the fourth pillar of democracy’. This has not yet been listed and the leaders urged Naidu to ensure that it is listed.

“While we understand our responsibility and the need to enact legislation, any attempt by the Government to undermine the privileges of members, the Rules and established conventions will diminish the role of the Council of States as envisaged by our founding fathers,” it said.