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Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die

Chairman Shekhawat and PM thanked members for the serious, purposeful and effective conduct of business "despite turbulence".

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 21:09 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

The 208th session of the Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die on Friday with Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thanking members for the serious, purposeful and effective conduct of business "despite turbulence".

"We can look back with satisfaction at the business transacted despite turbulence," Mannohan Singh said in his address to the final sitting of the session.

He also urged members "to explore ways and means to improve the process of governance, including the parliamentary system", saying: "Parliament should find ways and means of improving its functioning."

Noting that 16 important bills had been passed during the session, Manmohan Singh complemented Shekhawat for the "outstanding functioning" of the house. The prime minister also greeted the chairman in advance for his 83rd birthday on October 23.

Shekhawat had completed four years as Rajya Sabha presiding officer on August 19 and question hour had been suspended for the day, with member after member fondly recollecting how he had managed to maintain order under the most trying circumstances.

Noting that the house had discussed a variety of issues ranging from economics, to politics, to terrorism, to law and order, Manmohan Singh singled out the debates on the India-US nuclear deal and on the Office of Profit Bill for the "high quality of deliberations" they had evoked.

Shekhawat also referred to these two debates, saying that "serious and purposeful discussion in the house not only brings out transparency of actions but goes to build up public confidence and credibility in the system of governance".

Noting that several wide-ranging issues were discussed and debated, in addition to which about 100 special mentions were made by members, Shekhawat added: "Much more could have been accomplished but for the lost opportunity due to occasional discords and disturbances.

"The lesson for us is to build a shared ethos of transacting business as per rules without disturbance, and for this we need a mechanism whereby pro-actively engage ourselves in dialogue and discussion to speedily resolve any differences or conflict that may arise on any sensitive issue," the chairman added.

Friday's sitting, however, ended on a not too happy note with the house being adjourned four times with Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress members raising slogans on diametrically opposite issues.

The trouble began during zero hour when Abu Asim Azmi (SP) sought to raise the issue of three Muslim policemen in Maharashtra being asked to shave off their beards, even as other party members vociferously supported him.

Azmi waved copies of a media report saying the police chief of Beed district in Maharashtra had told the policemen they could not keep their beards without their superiors' permission.

Congress members had their own issue.

Led by Rajeev Shukla, they waved the latest issue of the newsmagazine Tehelka in which former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah alleged it was at the instance of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani that Maulana Masood Azhar, who later formed the Jaish-e-Muhammad militant group, was released in exchange of the passengers of an Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Kandahar in December 1999.

As MPs from both sides continued to raise slogans, Shekhawat adjourned the house till 12.30 p.m. When the tumult continued even after that, the house was again adjourned till 2 p.m.

When the house reassembled, presiding officer adjourned the proceedings till 2.30 p.m. Shekhawat thereafter took the chair and called for the introduction of private members' bills that had been listed. Five bills were tabled even as the slogan shouting from both sides continued. The chairman then adjourned the house till 5 p.m.

When the house re-assembled, he read out his close-of-session speech and then called on the prime to address the house.

In the process, a short-duration discussion on the report of the Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority into the involvement of former external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh in Iraq's oil-for-food scam along with the government's Action Taken Report could not be taken up.

First Published: Aug 25, 2006 21:09 IST