Winter Session of Parliament: Jaitley dismisses criticism of order on data interception; Congress seeks JPC probe into Rafale deal

The ninth day of Parliament followed the ongoing trajectory in the Winter Session thus far, and minimal business got completed. Both Houses were consistently interrupted by chaos, whether through AIADMK's protests over the Cauvery issue, or a spat between Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and Congress leader Anand Sharma.

Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha started on a peaceful note, but later faced repeated disruptions as the two Tamil parties - the AIADMK and DMK - continued their protest over the Cauvery River issue, while the Opposition Congress and treasury benches sparred over the Rafale jet deal.

As soon as the House met, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu appealed to all members to cooperate in the smooth functioning of the House as discussions on several urgent matters as well as the passage of important Bills were pending.

Naidu also said that he has admitted most of the notices for discussion on various issues and appealed to political parties for an honourable agreement for order in the House. However, Naidu's plea went unheeded as AIADMK and DMK members trooped into the well of the House with placards soon after listed papers and reports were tabled. Members of AAP were also seen in the Well, carrying placards, demanding an end to the sealing drive in the national capital.

 Winter Session of Parliament: Jaitley dismisses criticism of order on data interception; Congress seeks JPC probe into Rafale deal

File image of Parliament. PTI

Meanwhile, Naidu asked senior Congress leader Anand Sharma to put forward his views. Sharma said his party was ready for a discussion on all important issues and demanded an immediate debate on the imposition of President's Rule in Jammu and Kashmir under Article 356 of the Constitution.

Sharma also said that his party was ready to discuss the issue of purchase of Rafale jets from French company Dassault but the government should agree for a probe into the deal by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). To this, Naidu said the government is also willing to discuss the issue.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said the government is ready to discuss all issues including Rafale but the "Opposition is running away". Goel also informed that he had met Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and leaders of other parties in an effort to end the stalemate in the House.

As protesting members continued displaying placards, Naidu said he has received suggestions against members who are entering into the Well of the House. "I will not be happy to take action," he said, adding that if action against members would be taken it would be irrespective of party affiliation. The Chairman later adjourned the House till 2.30 pm.

After the Upper House resumed, Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was the first to speak. He said that the House should discuss the President's Rule that has been established in Jammu and Kashmir.

He also said that the "undeclared Emergency has taken its final shape. All central agencies have been let loose," in reference to the MHA  authorising ten central agencies to intercept data on any computer. The House erupted in chaos in response to his comments. Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh asked the House to settle down amid the din and said that it is essential that the Upper House discuss the issues on the agenda instead.

Following Azad, Congress MP Anand Sharma raised the topic of the MHA as well, and accused the government of infringing citizen privacy.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley responded to both statements, and said that Sharma and Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad should have gathered all the facts before raising the issue.

"What Anand said — every telephone and every computer will be monitored — that is not the case," he said, adding that the new law will only apply in matters of national security. Referring to the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000, the finance minister said that the laws have only been updated to keep up with technological advancements.

Accusing Sharma of "making a mountain where even a molehill does not exist", Jaitley concluded his statement by saying that Congress should not use its power to create a ruckus over an issue that was created during its own rule.

Lok Sabha

Lok Sabha proceedings were again disrupted on Friday as AIADMK, TDP and Congress members protested over various issues, with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourning the House for the day.

As soon as Zero Hour began, members from AIADMK, TDP and Congress trooped into the Well, displaying placards and shouting slogans. Members from the AIADMK protested against the proposed construction of a dam across Cauvery River and they also shouted slogans.

While TDP members sought to raise issues related to Andhra Pradesh, those from the Congress demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal. Papers, as well as reports of the Public Accounts Committee and two standing committees, were tabled.

In addition, five members spoke on various issues during the Zero Hour. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said that many members have requested that December 24 and 26 should be a holiday for the House on account of Christmas. Congress leader KC Venugopal said he had also given a letter on the same issue. Later, Mahajan approved the request.

As the ruckus continued, the House was adjourned for the day. Earlier, the proceedings were adjourned till noon following protests.

The Lower House will now meet on 26 December as there would be no session on 24 and 26 December in view of Christmas.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Dec 21, 2018 16:03:20 IST