Budget Session of Parliament: Finance Bill, ministry budgets passed in Lok Sabha without discussion; Opposition cries foul
The Appropriation Bill, contentious Finance Bill & ministry budgets were passed without any discussion in Lower House of Parliament amid Opposition cries.
The Budget Session of Parliament, which has seen little progress being made and virtually no bills being passed in seven days due to sustained protests by Opposition parties, took a bizarre turn on Wednesday, with Speaker of the House Sumitra Mahajan passing ministry budgets, the Appropriation Bill and the contentious Finance Bill 2018, one after the other, without any discussion on the floor of the House.
The government got the Budget for the fiscal year beginning 1 April passed by applying the guillotine process as the Opposition paralysed the functioning for the eighth day.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the Finance Bill 2018, which contains taxation proposals of his fifth and final budget, as well as the appropriation bill that details spendings in various departments, amid din created by the slogan-shouting Opposition. The bills were passed by voice vote.
Ruling BJP-led NDA has an absolute majority in the Lower House of Parliament. The Appropriation Bill was approved after a guillotine was applied which essentially means that all outstanding demands for grants from various departments are put to vote at once whether they are discussed or not. With the passage of the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill, the budget exercise is complete in the Lower House.
Technically, the two Bills also have to go to Rajya Sabha but since they are money bill they would be considered approved if the Upper House of Parliament does not return them within 14 days. The Opposition has an upper hand in the Rajya Sabha.
The functioning of both houses of Parliament has been stalled since the second half of the Budget session began on 5 March as Opposition parties raised issues ranging from India's biggest bank fraud to the division of Cauvery river water and special package to Andhra Pradesh.
The proposed demands for grants of all ministries were passed in a matter of minutes in what the Opposition dubbed "the death of democracy."
According to a report in Economic Times, major Opposition parties had urged Mahajan before Wednesday's proceedings to prevent the government from using the guillotine to push through the Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill.
"They alleged the government had ‘stagemanaged’ Parliament deadlock to skirt a debate on Nirav Modi-PNB fraud and Rafale fighter jet deal and was ‘planning to bulldoze’ the Finance Bill and Appropriation Bill without proper discussion," the report said. Cries of "stop killing democracy" and "protect the democracy" were heard from the Opposition benches.
Following the quickfire voting on the Budget and the Bill, that lasted all but 30 minutes, the House was adjourned. On Tuesday, the Budget Session of Parliament saw a repeat of Monday's commotion as proceedings in both Houses of Parliament — Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha — were stalled for the seventh day with no let up in protests by Opposition parties.
Ministries that were to be discussed: Railways, Agriculture, Youth Affairs, Road Transport and Highways and Social Justice and Welfare. This would amount to approximately 28% of the total budget. None of the ministries were discussed. pic.twitter.com/GZeHD6MfzF
— PRS Legislative (@PRSLegislative) March 14, 2018
Proceedings in the Lok Sabha were disrupted once again on Tuesday morning amid continuing protests by the Opposition over the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and other issues, forcing Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to adjourn the House till 12 pm.
The Rajya Sabha was also adjourned till 2 pm, minutes after it met for the day. Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House after the Opposition insisted on a discussion on the Rs 12,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam under Rule 168, which Naidu rejected.
Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Shekhar Roy raised a point of order, saying that he had given a notice under Rule 168 for discussion on the PNB scam and had fulfilled all the conditions laid down in the rules but still his notice was rejected by the Chair. Roy said that this denial by the Chair went against the "principles of natural justice".
Naidu said that he was ready to allow discussion on the issue under Rule 176. However, the Opposition persisted with its demand. Meanwhile, a few members stood up and moved towards the Chair's podium with placards. Naidu then adjourned the House.
Minutes earlier, he had appealed to all the members of the Upper House of Parliament not to display placards and banners as it was against the rules.
A similar situation was witnessed in the Lok Sabha as well.
Members from different parties trooped near the Speaker's podium, raising slogans on different issues, including the banking irregularities. This is the seventh consecutive day of disruptions in the Lower House.Speaker Mahajan tried to take up the Question Hour, but in the din, the House was soon adjourned.
AIADMK MPs lodged their protest over the constitution of Cauvery Management Board, while YSRCP MPs were seen holding placards and shouting slogans and demanded special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said that the BJP has issued a three-line whip to all the MPs: "We have included all important issues in the list of business. We have also issued a three-line whip to all our MPs.
We request all the parties to let the Parliament function and discuss constructively," Kumar said. Slamming Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia, he said that it seems that they 'don't believe in democracy'.
The second half of the Parliament Budget Session, which resumed on 5 March, has been a complete washout so far, with the government unable to push through any of its legislation.
With inputs from PTI.
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