The Rajya Sabha is scheduled to take up the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Wednesday, after it was passed in the Lok Sabha by a two-thirds majority on Tuesday midnight. The Upper House, presided over by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, is likely to begin the six-hour discussion on the bill at 2 pm.
The Lok Sabha debated the contentious bill for the better part of the session on Monday, during which most Opposition parties like the Congress, DMK, NCP, TMC, AIMIM, CPM, BSP, and SP, among others, vehemently objected to the proposed law seeking to give citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution in their native countries. Cutting across party lines, leaders also said that the bill was in violation of various provisions of the Constitution, including move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.
On Tuesday, the Congress issued a three-line whip to its Rajya Sabha MPs asking them to be present in the House on Wednesday for the introduction of the bill. India Today reported that the BJP has also issued a whip to all its MPs in the Upper House to attend the sessions on 10 and 11 December. "Now NDA will require the support of at least 121 MPs in the 240-member Rajya Sabha to pass the Citizenship Bill," the report said. PDP has also issued whip to its members asking them to be present in Rajya Sabha to oppose the Bill.
"Ms Mufti has termed CAB bill as unconstitutional & discriminatory. It will trigger degeneration of India’s cherished pluralistic values & ethos. Therefore as PDP President she has issued whip to PDP RS MP @MirMohdFayaz to vote against CAB in Rajya Sabha."
Meanwhile, one of the "fence-sitters", former NDA ally Shiv Sena, made its stand on the bill clear on Tuesday. Maharashtra chief minister and party chief Uddhav Thackeray said the Shiv Sena won't back the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha till the government answers the questions posed by the party in the Lok Sabha.
“If these queries are not answered, we won’t be supporting the CAB in the Rajya Sabha. Every party supporting or opposing it, is asking for clarity in national interest. Clarity must be ensured”
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) December 10, 2019
On Tuesday, the Rajya Sabha passed the Arms (Amendment) Bill, with most of the members in favour of the bill moved by Minister of State for Home Affairs, G Kishan Reddy. While introducing the bill, Reddy said that the law, passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday, provided a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for manufacturing and carrying illegal arms.
Additionally, under the law, sportspersons will be eligible for licences for different types of firearms. "A person can have a maximum of two firearms, as against the present norm of three. Those who own more than two firearms will have to deposit the third one with authorities or authorised gun dealers within 90 days for de-licensing," The Hindu reported.
MPs lauded the ban on celebratory gunfire, but Opposition leaders like the Congress' Digvijaya Singh said that heirloom and antique arms should be exempted from needing a license. "Violent crimes committed by licensed arms was minuscule," he was quoted by reports as saying. He added, "Illegal arms market should be tracked down, rather than reducing the number of arms with licensed users." YSRCP MP Vijaisai Reddy also said that vintage arms should be excluded from the law.
Congress MP Madhusudan Mistry lobbied for more time for the members to be able to deliberate on bills before they are moved in the House by the government. He said, "It has become a habit of this government to bring to this House, a bill passed in the Lok Sabha and get it passed on the same day, without giving the other members enough time to deliberate upon the bill and move amendments."
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (One hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2019, which contained provisions to extend the reservation for the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes communities in the legislature by another 10 years, and removes the provision for two nominated seats for Anglo-Indians in the Parliament. The bill was passed with 352 votes in favour and none against.
While most MPs supported the first clause, they also questioned the government on not extending similar benefit to the Anglo-Indian community. The reservation given to the three communities for the past 70 years is to end on 25 January, 2020.
"At the moment we have not come up with the matter related to extension of reservation for the Anglo-Indian community," Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said during the debate. He also said that there were "only" 296 Anglo-Indians in the country, according to the 2011 Census.
Anglo Indians provision is also there, but haven't brought it today in this Bill but working on it
Only 296 Anglo Indians as per 2011 census
Prof. Saugata Ray opposes but minister says that there are only 9 Anglo Indians in WB. Opposition mentions #NRC
— Maadhyam (@_maadhyam_) December 10, 2019
During the discussion on the bill, Saugata Roy (TMC) said Prasad's data on the number of Anglo-Indians by quoting the Registrar General report, was "completely misleading". He said, "I totally object to the government's effort to obliterate the representation of one community and for this the minister has taken recourse to a false report of Registrar General of India."
"What Dr BR Ambedkar gave, Ravi Shankar Prasad wants to take away," he said, taking a swipe at the law minister. K Kanimozhi (DMK) said although the number of Anglo-Indians is shrinking, it cannot be as low as 296 as Tamil Nadu itself will have few thousand people from the community.
She wondered how could the Centre unilaterally remove this as 13 states have this provision. This government is hurting the federal structure, she added. The DMK MP also demanded that the government consider reservation for women. She also referred to the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday and said, "Yesterday (the government) brought a bill to hurt Muslims, today it is Christians. Majority is not everything."
Anglo-Indians are spread out geographically, thus cannot represent themselves without nomination
Again and again interfering with federal system, didn't consult state govts
Y'day brought bill to hurt Muslims, today Christians. Majority is not everything.
— Maadhyam (@_maadhyam_) December 10, 2019
Supriya Sule (NCP) demanded that the government support minorities within the country also by extending reservation for Anglo-Indian communities. NDA ally Apna Dal member Anupriya Patel also sought continued representation of Anglo-Indian community in the legislature.
Hibi Eden, Congress MP from Ernakulam, said that Prasad was "misleading" the House on the number of Anglo-Indians. "In my constituency, there are 20,000 people of the community," he said, adding that the entire community contributed a lot to the progress of the country.
He said the House has 543 elected members and questioned if there was any elected member from the Anglo-Indian community. He said that in the Rajya Sabha, there was just one member, Derek O'Brien, from the community. He also said that Anglo Indians were not adequately represented in the Parliament, adding that around 3,47,000 people from this community were spread across the country.
He also urged the government to appoint a committee to study the economic and social situation of this community which was facing cultural erosion.
Trinamool Congress walks out of Rajya Sabha
Trinamool Congress MPs on Tuesday shouted slogans against the West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar and walked out of Rajya Sabha after the party was not allowed to raise an issue, drawing the ire of Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu who said Parliament's image was "going down" due to such conduct.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has been accusing the governor of delaying clearance to the bill concerning the formation of SC and ST state commission, among other legislations.
The issue was also raised by TMC MP Saugata Roy in Lok Sabha during the debate to extend reservation for SC/ST members in the Parliament. This government is taking about reservation to SC/ST communities but injustice is being done to Dalits in West Bengal, Roy alleged.
"West Bengal governor is not sending Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commission Bill to West Bengal Assembly. The House was adjourned last week for days. This was a great humiliation to the communities. I would urge the West Bengal governor to change his ways," he said.
In Rajya Sabha, as soon as Naidu announced the Question Hour, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien tried to raise the issue related to the Bill, but was not permitted by the Chairman as no prior notice had been given, following which TMC members trooped into the Well raising slogans.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 10, 2019 22:57:35 IST