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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

‘Soul of India’s federal structure’: PM Modi at Rajya Sabha’s 250th session

PM Modi said Rajya Sabha has both created and witnessed history and is a reflection of India’s diversity.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2019 23:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said Rajya Sabha is the soul of India’s federal structure.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said Rajya Sabha is the soul of India’s federal structure.(ANI/Twitter)
         

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday lauded the role of the Rajya Sabha in discussing and passing key legislation such as bills related to the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir, Triple Talaq and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

During a special discussion on the Role of Rajya Sabha in Indian Polity and Need for Reforms to commemorate the beginning of the Upper House’s 250th session, Modi spoke about the contribution of the Upper House.

“We can never forget the role of Rajya Sabha when Bills pertaining to Articles 370 and 35(A) were passed. This House has worked to further the country’s unity… It was believed that the Bill on Triple Talaq would not pass here but it did. GST became a reality after it was passed in Rajya Sabha,” Modi said.

 

Article 370 granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and Article 35(A) reserved special privileges for people deemed to be permanent citizens of J&K. In August, the articles were nullified and the government decided to bifurcate the state into Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

The Triple Talaq Bill made the Muslim practice of instant divorce by a husband by uttering the word talaq three times an offence punishable with three years’ imprisonment and a fine. GST subsumed a range of central, state and local taxes.

Modi said the Rajya Sabha was about checks and balances that were “absolutely essential for the country’s democracy”.

 

“Debates have to be many and effective. But there is also a difference between checking and clogging, and balance and blocking,” the PM said.

Recalling Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s words in 2013 that Rajya Sabha may be the second house but it is not a secondary house, Modi said he echoed the former PM’s sentiments and added that the Upper House must be “a vibrant supportive house for national progress”.

“The Rajya Sabha, as the Council of States enables us to further the spirit of cooperative federalism,” the PM said.

“Who can forget that it was through the Rajya Sabha that a stalwart like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar could contribute even more to national progress. The Rajya Sabha gives an opportunity to those away from electoral politics to contribute to the nation and its development,” the PM said. He said the House was the soul of India’s federal structure and was representative of the country’s diversity.

Taking part in the discussion, former PM Manmohan Singh said for the House to fulfil its deliberative functions, it was important that the members scrutinised bills more thoroughly in committees.

“I would assert that regardless of what the other House does, it is crucial for our House to form select committees to ensure that bills receive the detailed scrutiny they deserve,” Singh said.

He said that in the recent past, there had been instances of misuse of the Money Bill provision by the executive, leading to bypassing of the Rajya Sabha on crucial legislation. “Those in Treasury benches must ensure that such instances are avoided. It dilutes the stature and importance of our institutions,” he said.

His party colleague Jairam Ramesh also said while celebrating our democracy we should also get rid of the “hypocrisy” and said that the government must stop the “bypass surgery” of making enactments through money bill to avoid Rajya Sabha scrutiny.

A money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and can’t be amended or rejected by the Rajya Sabha.

Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said the Upper House had played a significant role in the socio-economic transformation of the country during its journey of last 67 years but “all is not well”. He said since the first sitting of the House on May 13, 1952, the Rajya Sabha held 5,466 sittings and passed 3,817 Bills.

Naidu made several suggestions for making the functioning of the House more effective. These include holding an adequate number of sittings, keeping in view the nature and volume of legislation and ensuring members with the right background are sent to the House to enrich debates.