NEW DELHI: Lack quorum on Friday forced abrupt adjournment of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Rajya Sabha, which re-convened at 2.30 pm after repeated adjournments caused by Congress protests, was to take up private members’ bills as is the practice on Fridays. Soon after, most BJP and Congress members moved out of the House as the Bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950, moved by Vishambhar Prasad Nishad of Samajwadi Party on April 24, came up for voting. At this, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said “if the members do not want to attend and there is no quorum, what can I do?” He then adjourned the House for the day.
There were 19 members in the House at that time, compared to a minimum of 25 needed for quorum. For quorum, there is a need for presence of 10 per cent of members of the total strength of 250 members of a House. The Lok Sabha was also adjourned for the day, a little past 5.30 PM because of lack of quorum when the discussion on a private member bill on Compulsory Voting was in progress. Hukum Narayan Yadav, who was in the Chair, wanted to extend the sitting by one hour as on Fridays the House timings are only till 5.30 pm.
He sought the sense of the House to extend the time of the sitting so that the discussion on the bill could continue. Even as most of the members agreed, N K Premachandran of RSP objected, saying that it is being done so that a bill on the rights of transgenders is not taken up. “This is a black day in Indian Parliament… It is totally unfair,” he said, demanding that the bill on rights of transgenders be taken up.
Noisy exchanges ensued between the Treasury benches and him. Premachandran then raised the issue of quorum as only around 20 members were present in the House. As per the rules, the Lower House should have at least 55 members, 10 per cent of the total strength of 545 members, present for quorum. Yadav then rang the ‘quorum bell’ and in the next few minutes, nearly ten members walked into the House.
However, the number still was well below the quorum, forcing Yadav to adjourn the House for the day.
Amid the protests, BJD’s Tatagatha Satpathy, who was supporting Premachandran, said the matter was not a question of Congress or BJP but of a group of citizens. Countering Premachandran, BJP’s Nishikant Dubey said since it is a private member bill, there is no need for a quorum. The Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 has been prepared by N K Premachandran (RSP), Udit Raj (BJP) and Baijayant Panda (BJD).
During the discussion on bill for Compulsory Voting, members of BJP differed on the practicality of implementing such a measure. Daddan Mishra (BJP) said participation of people was needed for a vibrant democracy and it was possible to introduce compulsory voting in the country. His party colleague Udit Raj said there was a need to educate people and encourage them to participate in the electoral process, though it may not possible to make in compulsory in the Indian context.
Ravindra Kumar Ray (BJP) said it was everyone’s duty to strengthen democracy as “there is no alternative to democracy.” Banshilal Mahto (BJP) demanded that there should be compulsory voting and also there should be restriction on independent candidates. Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (BJP) regretted that those who do not vote often throng the elected representatives to take various kinds of advantages by getting close to them.
Restrictions should be imposed on those who do not exercise their voting right, he added.
Jugal Kishore Sharma (BJP) suggested that there should be a mechanism whereby people who cannot step out, can vote from their homes while citing that many people do not come out to vote fearing terrorists.
Another BJP member Raman Deka said making voting compulsory is not impractical and that everyone should exercise their voting rights. Kaushalendr Kumar (JD-U) opposed the bill.