Telangana shame: Voice vote gross violation of Parliament rule

Many are describing the government's decision to pass the Telangana bill by a voice vote and black out the telecast of the proceedings  as the death of democracy. Particularly controversial is the Lok Sabha speaker's decision to move ahead with a voice vote — instead of the division vote as demanded by the opposing voices.

"A voice vote can only be held with the consent of all the members in the house," says Subhash C Kashyap, a former Secretary General of the Indian Parliament and a honorary advisor to the government of India on legal issues. "Even if one member doesn't give his or her consent in favour of a voice vote, then the house cannot proceed with a voice vote but it has to go for a division vote," says the veteran parliament expert.

 Telangana shame: Voice vote gross violation of Parliament rule

TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao flashes the victory sign with party leaders after the passage of Telangana bill by the Lok Sabha. PTI

A voice vote — or as it is called in Hindi, a muh zubaan — is a process of voting where the Speaker calls out to the members of the house and asks for their consent. When a motion is put to vote, the speaker says, ‘Those in the favour of the motion say Aye and those opposing it say No.’ According to the voice vote, the speaker then decides whether the Bill has been accepted or rejected by the House.

"But a voice vote can only be held in case there is a unanimous demand for a voice vote. Any form of opposition to it will result into a division vote, which means there will be voting by machine. But in this case we don't know anything that happened on the floor yesterday. As it was blacked out, nothing is in public domain," says Kashyap.

"The way it has been done yesterday is shameful. In an age of connectivity, when every single democratic proceeding is presented in front of the country, an act like this is highly condemnable," says Ali Anwar Ansari, a JD(U) MP in Rajya Sabha. "The Congress party which claims all the credit for passing the Right to Information act has blacked out the event from being telecast. what can be a bigger instance of hypocrisy for them?"  The veteran politician, however, is no less angry at the BJP. "The chief opposition party acted as though it's a part of the ruling coalition," he says.

The Bharatiya Janta Party, however, has tried deflect any responsibility for yesterday's decision. "The Congress party is now passing law even ignoring popular demand in the House. And the arrogance is visible when they black out the telecast," declared BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi. But a BJP MP, who wished to remain unnamed, told Firstpost that the opposition could not take a stronger stand in the Lower House yesterday as it would have been politically risky.

"The idea of voice vote sounds very much like a kangaroo court and the popular sentiment in the party also lies with the demands of Seemandhra people, but the BJP seemed to have not taken a stand that portrays it in a anti-Telangana light," he says, pointing out that "after all, the proceeding for Telangana as a separate state was initiated during the BJP's tenure in the government. The BJP as a party has always stood by the cause of smaller states, and Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and, Chattisgarh are the proof."

"The pepper spay attack was highly disgusting, but the voice vote and blacking out of the event is scary. The pepper spray attack was carried out by an individual, but this one was committed by a ruling government. The system in place is responsible for such acts," said an MP of Rashtriya Lok Dal, which is a UPA-II ally.

However, whatever wrong was committed yesterday can no longer be undone. According to the rules of the parliament, the House is the supreme authority whose judgement cannot be challenged once it is passed.

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2014 17:15:50 IST