In one of its most productive days, the House passed the bills after a number of opposition parties staged a walkout and decided to boycott proceedings of the House till the suspension of eight members is revoked.
The government, however, insisted that the suspended members first apologise and then the government would consider the request for revoking their suspension.
The parties that boycotted the proceedings of the House included the Congress, CPI-M, CPI, TMC, NCP, SP, Shiv Sena, RJD, DMK, TRS and AAP.
The Bills passed today are ‘The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020’, ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020’, ‘The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2020’, ‘The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020’, ‘The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020, ‘The Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020’ and ‘The Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020’.
When the bills were passed, only a few members were present in the house which included those from the ruling BJP and its ally JD-U and those of parties like AIADMK, BJD, YSR-Congress and TDP, and participated in the debates on the bills.
The Upper House took up the government’s legislative business after nearly an hour of discussion over the conduct of opposition MPs during the passage of two agriculture reform bills on Sunday, with Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu saying the suspension could be revoked if the members expressed regret over their action.
First, it passed a bill to declare five newly-established Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as institutions of national importance.
The crucial Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and removes stockholding limits on them, was passed next.
This bill is part of the agriculture reforms bills that the government is pushing to raise farm incomes.
The bills passed on Sunday gave farmers the freedom to sell products anywhere in the country and enter into forwarding contracts with companies. Rajya Sabha also passed amendments to the Bank Regulation Act to bring cooperative banks under the supervision of the RBI in a bid to protect the interest of depositors.
Thereafter the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which removes the penalty for certain offenses, was passed.
The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and the Rashtriya Rakash University Bill were also passed in quick succession. Thereafter, the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 to relax time limit on compliance with tax laws, GST payment and filing in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 as well as the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 replace emergency ordinances.
The sitting of the Rajya Sabha was extended by just over an hour beyond the scheduled time to allow the passage of the bills. All the seven bills have already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu earlier lauded Deputy Chairman Harivansh for showing restraint when opposition members were agitating in the House and disapproved of the conduct of the protesting leaders.
He also appealed to the opposition members to reconsider their decision of boycotting Rajya Sabha proceedings and asked them to participate in the discussions instead. Democracy means debate, discussion and decision, not disruption, he said, adding that the Chair wants the House to run with the full participation of members.
The Chairman also said the members should not try to blame the Chair and drag it into a controversy over what has happened in the House on Sunday and this was not the first time that members have been suspended.
Mr. Naidu said he had allowed the motion moved by the government for suspension of some members over their unruly behaviour as he was convinced about it.
Lauding the Deputy Chairman Harivansh for the manner in which he handled the situation, Mr. Naidu said Harivansh announced for a division of vote at least 13 times in the House and called upon the protesting opposition members to go to their seats and move their resolutions, but they did not return to their seats.
He said the Deputy Chairman acted with utmost restraint and handled the situation in a very deft manner. Mr. Naidu lamented that the chair has been dragged into the controversy and said members should not put the blame on the Chair. He also lamented that the suspended members in an interview justified their action and showed no remorse. He said this is not the first time that members have been suspended.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, demanded that new bills be brought to ensure that the Centre and states and private players buy food grains from farmers above the Minimum Support Price.
He said they would boycott the proceedings till the suspension of members is revoked and also demanded that the government bring another bill to ensure that no private player should buy food grains from farmers below the MSP fixed by the government.
Mr. Azad demanded that the government should also ensure that the MSP is fixed as per the formula under Swaminathan Committee.
The colleagues who have been suspended for the rest of the Session their suspension be revoked. Till the government does these three things, we will boycott the session, Azad said while walking out of the house.
Eight members of Rajya Sabha were suspended on Monday over their unruly behaviour during the passage of the two key farm related bills on Sunday. Azad also said members should get more time to speak and time constraint has become a major issue of discontent among opposition parties.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said, the government is not hell-bent upon keeping the suspended MPs out of the House.
If they express regret, the government will look into it, he said. Leader of the House Thaawarchand Gehlot said the suspended members tried to portray that it is the mistake of the Chair and not the opposition. He said this is not proper.
Former Prime Minister and JD-S leader H D Deve Gowda said the government and Opposition should sit together to run the House.
Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party said, a mistake has taken place by opposition members, but elders should be large hearted. He said that he would apologise on their behalf.