A week after the monsoon session of Parliament was washed out due to a standoff between the government and the opposition, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has again raised the issue of Rajya Sabha’s role in the process of making new laws.
Pointing to the frequent disruptions in the Upper House, Jaitley has sought a debate on the issue to find a solution.
“In a democracy to what extent can an indirectly elected house obstruct the decisions of the directly elected house,” said Jaitley on Tuesday evening.
“I think it’s about time that we set up some good conventions in order to decide as the British did, as to how do you get legislative sanction when it is required for a reform…My own answer to this has been that it is the strength of public opinion, safeguards like joint-sessions and Money Bills, which provide for legislation part of the Answer,” Jaitley explained.
Jaitley accused the Congress of delaying reforms with its ‘obstructionism’ in Parliament. He also took a dig at ‘families’ controlling political parties.
The Opposition Congress, which was at the forefront of the protests during the last session, has criticised the finance minister and demanded an apology from him. More importantly, the party has rejected any call for redefining the role of the Upper House.
“He (Jaitley) is the leader of house and should retract his statement and apologise. We will not under any circumstances allow any redefining of the constitution and parliament,” said Congress leader Anand Sharma.
Meanwhile, constitutional experts agree that there are provisions in the Constitution for the government to have its way in clearing the bills which have trouble being cleared in the Upper House.
“If the government has no majority in Rajya Sabha then it can call a joint session of the Parliament to pass the bill. This provision is defined in the Constitution,” said PDT Achary, Former Secretary General of Rajya Sabha.
The three-week monsoon session of the Parliament failed to transact any prominent business. The government failed to pass the amendment bill to roll out the much-delayed Goods and Services Tax.
This is not the first time that the Finance Minister has raised this issue. Jaitley had raised the same issue in a blog after the budget session of Parliament earlier this year. Even then, the Congress had objected to his views and had filed a breach of privilege motion against him.