Winter Session of Parliament: Lok Sabha passes landmark surrogacy bill; Rajya Sabha adjourns early amid sloganeering
On the seventh day of Parliament, the Lok Sabha discussed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016, and passed the landmark legislation. Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha did not get much done after the Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), and Telegu Desam Party (TDP) caused chaos in the Upper House.
On the seventh day of Parliament, the Lok Sabha discussed and passed the landmark Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 even as the Rajya Sabha did not get much done after the Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), and Telegu Desam Party (TDP) created a ruckus in the Upper House.
The day began with the CPM and Congress giving adjournment motion notices — handed in to stay the business of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, which can be moved with the consent of the Speaker — in Lok Sabha over the Rafale deal and demonetisation respectively.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan conducted the proceedings amid sloganeering and ruckus. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was protesting against the construction of a dam across the Cauvery river. Congress MPs were demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Rafale deal, and the TDP sought to raise issues related to Andhra Pradesh.
When the Lower House convened for the day, more than 40 members from the three parties trooped into the Well, holding placards and shouting slogans. BJP MPs also sought to raise certain issues from their seats.
As the day went on, Congress MPs demanded a joint parliamentary committee investigation into Rafale deal, which forced both Houses to adjourn. ANI quoted Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge as saying: "We want JPC as we will only get to know everything when Parliament members sit and look into the files. JPCs were formed in the Bofors and 2G cases as well. How can there be a typo? Had it been one word, it would've been understandable, an entire paragraph can’t be a typo."
Kharge added that there were "irregularities and corruption in the way the Rafale deal was signed." He pointed out the loss of technology transfer to HAL, as well as the loss to the national exchequer. He demanded a JPC probe to "fix accountability". "Kindly allow this and all details will come out. Every file will be checked by Parliament, not the Supreme Court," he said.
Multiple BJP leaders rejected the need for a JPC probe into the Rafale deal, saying that the Supreme Court had made it clear that there were no irregularities. The saffron party then demanded an apology from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. Health Minister JP Nadda then introduced the surrogacy bill to the Lok Sabha, saying it's a historic day and that all parties wanted commercial surrogacy to be stopped to prevent exploitation of women.
Amid sloganeering and chaos, discussion on the bill ensued. BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said that the surrogacy bill does not define the "close relative" who can become a surrogate mother. He also pointed out that the bill does not mention the legal recourse a couple can adopt if their plea for surrogacy is rejected. Adding to the discussion, NCP MP Supriya Sule noted that the five-year "cooling period" clause in the bill is not conducive as medical tests can be done to prove a couple's fertility or lack thereof. She also said: "Sometimes a fertile couple may not have children due to medical reasons, they should not be left out."
She also noted that the provision of surrogacy only applies to married couples, and that other family structures are ignored. "If single parents are allowed to adopt, they should be allowed to have surrogates as well." She concluded by calling it a "good bill, but not modern enough." As the din got louder, the Lower House or Parliament finally passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016. Mahajan announced that the Consumer Protection Bill will be discussed in Thursday's session.
The proceedings got underway peacefully in the Upper House. The Rajya Sabha was to discuss two important bills related to the education sector. Union Education Minister Prakash Javadekar was to move that the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018 be passed. He was also to introduce the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018 for consideration and passing.
The Rajya Sabha was disrupted consistently, causing Chairman Venkaiah Naidu saying that it was clear members were not ready to allow the House to run smoothly, and adjourned the session for the day. Both Houses will convene at 11 am Thursday.
The Rajya Sabha will not function from 24 to 26 December, so that members can celebrate Christmas back home, Naidu said minutes before adjourning the House. "Let's utilise the time properly," he said, taking a jab at certain MPs.
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