Was finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal’s reported advice to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari on Thursday night that the House could not extend the session beyond midnight correct?
For, although there are precedents that day’s business were extended on several occasions at the decision of the chairman of the House, whether the lokpal bill could be passed after midnight on the last day of the session remains a gray area.
Bansal told the House that since the year would end on December 31 and the new year begins with the President’s Address, “we can’t really decide matters sitting here.”
But former secretary general of the Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap said, “They could have extended the session and it would have remained the winter session of 2011. Rule 13 of Rajya Sabha proceedings makes it clear that the chairman can extend the session.”
Rule 13 says, “A sitting of the council shall conclude at such hour as the chairman may direct.”
Another former Lok Sabha secretary general, PDT Achary, told HT: “Once the decision has been taken to extend the sitting hours beyond midnight, proceedings will be entered in the same day’s minutes.”
Precedence also shows that on several occasions in the Rajya Sabha, business had been carried beyond midnight. ‘Rajya Sabha at work’, a handbook, also says, “A sitting of the House concludes at such time as the chairman may direct. The exact or precise time up to which the House may sit is, however, determined by the state of business and consensus in the House.”
It says, “There have, therefore, been occasions when the Rajya Sabha had continued its sittings beyond midnight for the consideration and completion of important business.”
Some of the crucial bills sailed past in Rajya Sabha after midnight.
On December 22, 1980, a ruling was issued on extending the session when the House was considering the National Security Bill that sought preventive detention in matters of national security.
A point of order was raised at midnight, saying the List of Business — a list issued daily during sessions containing the main items of the agenda to be taken up by the House — became inoperative at midnight. So, the sitting of the House could not continue beyond midnight.
But the chair rejected the contention and allowed the proceedings to continue and ruled that the proceedings would pertain to the previous day.
And that night, the House was adjourned at 00.40am to meet again at 11.00am next day.