Twelve members of the Rajya Sabha were suspended for the remainder of the winter session that began on Monday after the House passed a motion moved by the government seeking their suspension under Rule 256 for their “unruly and violent behaviour” during the monsoon session. Opposition parties termed the suspension as “undemocratic”.
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Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh announced the suspension of the members after parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion that was adopted by a voice vote to suspend six MPs of the Congress, Phulo Devi Netam, Chhaya Verma, Ripun Bora, Rajamani Patel, Syed Hussain and Akhilesh Singh; two of the Shiv Sena, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Anil Desai; two of the TMC, Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri; Elamaram Kareem of the CPM; and Binoy Viswam of the CPI for indiscipline in the last session of the House.
The motion moved by the government said, “…the House takes cognisance and strongly condemns the utter disregard to the authority of the chair, complete abuse of rules of the House persistently thereby wilfully obstructing the business of House through their, unprecedented acts of misconduct, contemptuous, unruly and violent behaviour and intentional attacks on security personnel on the last day of the 254th session of Rajya Sabha (monsoon session) i.e. August 11, 2021, thereby lowering the dignity of and bringing disrepute to this August House…”
The incidents referred to pertain to the ruckus that broke out in the House on August 11, the last day of the monsoon session, when some opposition MPs climbed on a Rajya Sabha officials’ table, raised slogans, and threw files when the House began a discussion on farmers’ protest against new reform laws. Later, opposition members staged a walkout from the House, protesting against the hurried passage of bills and the deployment of security personnel inside the House, even as the government accused them of manhandling marshals.
Opposition members dubbed the suspension “undemocratic” and said the motion moved by the government is “unprecedented and violates the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).”
A statement issued by the leader of Opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge, said the floor leaders of the opposition parties of Rajya Sabha will meet on Tuesday to deliberate on the future course of action. The statement has been supported by parties including the DMK, SP, NCP, Shiv Sena, RJD, CPI, CPM, IUML, LJD, MDMK, TRS and AAP.
The government maintained the incidents of “indiscipline were unprecedented.”
“The opposition members were given a chance to apologise, but they did not; they even turned down the opportunity to be part of a committee suggested by the Chairman to probe the August 11 incidents,” said a government functionary on condition of anonymity.
To a question on why the government did not choose to take action against the MPs who created ruckus on August 10, a second government functionary said; “August 11 was the last day of the monsoon session.” Had the government moved the motion for suspension on August 11; then the MPs named for creating ruckus would have been let off with just a day’s suspension since Rule 256 says they can be suspended for the duration of the session in which the motion is moved.
While some of the opposition MPs alleged that they were not allowed to present their version of events before being handed down suspension, a third government functionary said as per the Rule 256 of the Rajya Sabha’s Rules of Procedure the Chairman is entitled to take action against acts of misconduct: disregarding the authority of the chair, abusing the rules of the council by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business thereof.
The government also claimed that since the beginning of the monsoon session till the last day, there used to be “20-30 names that were mentioned for disputing the house in the day’s bulletin”.
“From not allowing the Prime Minister to introduce ministers; to snatching papers from IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw the opposition in a planned way decided they won’t allow the house to function. There were scenes never seen before — MPs whistling, recording proceedings and putting it on YouTube, and covering the faces of MPs with placards while they spoke,” said the first functionary.
The government also referred to the complaints that were submitted by at least two marshals about the injuries they received while preventing the MPs from breaking the security cordon around the Chair.
“They will have to consider apologising and there also needs be a re-look at the rules to ensure these incidents do not recur”, the first person added.
There have been several instances of members being suspended on account of various reasons. In September 2020, eight Rajya Sabha members — Derek O’Brien (TMC), Sanjay Singh (AAP), Rajeev Satav (Congress), KK Ragesh (CPM), Syed Nazir Hussain (Congress), Ripun Boren (Congress), Dola Sen (TMC) and Elamaram Kareem (CPM) — were suspended for unruly behaviour in the House. The motion was passed by a voice vote. The same year, seven Congress members — Gaurav Gogoi, TN Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, Rajmohan Unnithan, Manickam Tagore, Benny Behanan and Gurjeet Singh Aujla — were suspended from Lok Sabha during the budget session of Parliament.
In January 2019, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, suspended 45 Members of the TDP and AIADMK for disrupting proceedings for days.