Opposition parties supported by a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha stalled a bill to set up dedicated tribunals to settle higher education-related disputes across the country.
Faced with a U-turn from the Opposition, which had supported the Education Tribunal Bill, 2010, in the Lok Sabha last week, Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal deferred it to the winter session.
The government was taken by surprise because the Opposition, led by the BJP, had given unanimous support to the bill in the Lok Sabha after their concerns were met.
Curiously, the trouble for the government was initiated by Congress MP K. Keshava Rao, who charged the HRD ministry with rushing through the bill.
With support from unexpected quarters, the Opposition went on the offensive and the Centre, unsure of its numbers in the House, played safe.
Rao objected to the rejection of the parliamentary standing committee report on the bill by the ministry. "It (committee) is a mini Parliament. If its report is rejected and the House is not even told, it is unacceptable," Rao said.
"Let every minister sitting in the House first start respecting the standing committee."
Rao was supported by BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra, who said the committee report must be respected. "This bill would rather complicate the matter, bring endless litigation and it should not be passed in a hurried manner," Mishra said.
BJP leaders Bal Apte and Rama Jois, who spoke on the bill, opposed several provisions even after the party had agreed to support the bill with some changes sought by it.
"The half-baked bill, which has been brought without any homework and vision, should be withdrawn," Apte said.
Majority of the Opposition MPs, including those from the Left parties, Telugu Desam and Biju Janata Dal, wanted changes in the bill.
In his reply, repeatedly interrupted by Opposition benches, Sibal denied the bill had been rushed through. "In fact, we are late," he said.
On the Opposition's apprehensions, he said, "We are not in any way infringing upon the rights of states. It's a significant piece of legislation and if members want a larger debate, we have no problem."
The decision to defer the bill followed uproar by the Opposition members over Sibal's remark that he was ready to "bow down" if there was any "substance" in the Opposition.