Three important and controversial Bills to be taken up in the Lok Sabha today – The National Medical Commission Bill, The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill and The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Here are the live updates:
Special mentions end. The House is adjourned for the day.
An MP says the clause allowing judges of the High Court and Supreme Court as Chairpersons of the Committee, only be allowed if the Chief Justice is not able to take up the post.
Responding to this, Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah says if this is allowed, no judge would want to take up the position as it will be deemed disrespectful.
Voice vote continues. The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is passed.
Special mentions have now begun.
The division is completed. 218 say yes. 79 say no. The lobby is opened.
The Chair puts the Bill to vote. A voice vote is undertaken. Motion to vote on the Bill is passed.
A clause-by-clause vote is now being undertaken.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill is passed.
Nitin Jairam Gadkari, Minister, Road Transport and Highways introduces the The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Nityanand Rai, Minister of State, Home Affairs replies to questions and queries posed by the MPs.
The Chair puts the Bill to vote. A voice vote is undertaken.
A clause-by-clause vote is now being undertaken.
A motion to send the Bill to a Select Committee is undertaken. A voice vote is taken up. The motion is negated.
Dr. Jitendra Sigh, Minister of State, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension rises to respond to the questions and queries posed by the MPs. He cites a number of MPs who kept saying that basic rights are being taken away. But, he says the Emergency period under the Indira Gandhi rule is the darkest period in the history of the country. He says the current government has nothing to hide.
He says that the current government has done away with 1500 obsolete laws.
Mr. Singh says in 2014, there were annually two lakh grievances filed under the Act. This has risen to almost 16 lakh annually. He says this is because the current government has been active when it comes to resolving issues.
He says the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 was conceived by the NDA, which was then taken up the next government. This eventually led to the creation of the RTI Act. He says the Bill is simply an enabling legislation and autonomy is not undermined.
The Minister of State requires the Bill be passed.
MPs ask for a division. A division will be undertaken. Proceedings extended till 7 pm
Ripun Bora (INC, Assam) says if the Commission does not have the autonomy to look into violations made by the Army, there is no use of its powers.
He sheds light on the detention camps in Assam where persons are sent by the foreigners tribunals. He says five people have committed suicide since its inception. An expert team sent from Delhi to Assam to observe the conditions. found that there no facilities, no basic water or electricity supply, he says. Yet, no action has been taken. The conditions in the judicial custody or jails in the camps, are also in pathetic conditions, he says.
He says if any judge is allowed to chair the Commission, a biasness will enter and this will not strengthen the Commission.
Kanankamedala Ravindra Kumar, (TDP, Andhra Pradesh) says the decrease of the Chairperson’s tenure from five years to three year and the opportunity to reappoint the post at any time are both in contradictory. The clause can be misused, he says.
He says it has been 26 years since the Commission came to be. It requires a review and more amendments, or else it will not fulfill its objectives, he says. The Commission should be given quasi-judicial or judicial powers and its recommendations should be binding, he says.
Mr. Kumar says there are a number of vacancies in the SHRC, and amendments should be made to allow time-bound reappointments.
He says the Commission has become a fact-finding committee instead of a human rights watchdog. There are enough fact-finding bodies in the country, he says. He recommends the Bill be sent to a Standing Committee.
N.K. Premachandran (RSP, Kerala) calls it a ‘black day’ in the legislative history of the nation. He says the legislative powers is being usurped by the executive body through the rule-making power.
He says the BJP is cutting down the rights of the Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioner, and not allowing them to perform their role. He says the Bill should either be withdrawn or sent to a Standing Committee.
Tiruchi Siva, (DMK, Tamil Nadu) says the clause to amend the Act to allow the appointment of any judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court to be the chairperson of the NHRC or the SHRC, can be misued. Currently, only a retired CJI can head the commission.
He says allowing a chairperson’s tenure to be changed from five years to three years and the clause that allows his or her reappointment at any time, will allow the government of the day to misuse the same to receive a ruling in their favour. Mr. Siva says there has been an 1,237% increase in custodial deaths after the NHRC came into existence and that should be a matter of worry.
He quotes an Supreme Court observation that calls the commission a “toothless tiger”.
Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD,Bihar) says in the name of the protection of Human rights, the the Bill allows the violation of basic human rights by having the Prime Minister’s ”yes” men’ in the body.
Vivek Tankha (Congress) says the government has set a precedent of rewarding retired judges with posting. He fears this would continue in NHRC too, now.
Ramgopal Yadav (SP) warns that removal of tenure clause in re-appointments would make officials tow in line of the government so that they can enjoy the post.
Prasanna Acharya (BJD) says chairpersons of NCBC and NCST are usually political appointees and this could undermine the value of NHRC.
Raghu Ramakrishna Raju (YSRCP) accuses the government of infringing the rights of the States by seeking to appoint State Information Commissioners.
Sunil Dattatrey (NCP) asks when the government could upgrade the salaries of Tribunals and High Court judges, why is it worried about the salaries of CIC and ICs now.
Karti Chidambaram (Congress) draws comparison of the ruling party’s 303 MLAs with IPC’s Section 303 dealing with murder. “Don’t murder RTI,” he says. Calling it a regressive BIll, he points out over 16000 applications were rejected in 2016 alone.
What are the amendments being proposed to the Protection of Human Rights Act?
The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the Act to allow the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court to be the chairperson of the NHRC. Currently, only a retired CJI can head the commission. Similarly a Judge of High Court can be the head of SHRC.
The Bill also increases the number of members to three and makes it mandatory to have a woman member.
The Bill provides for including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.
The Bill reduces the term of office to three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier. The Bill removes the five-year limit for reappointment of members.
The bill empowers Secretary-General (NHRC) and Secretary (SHRC) to exercise all administrative and financial powers, (except judicial functions), subject to the respective chairperson’s control.
The Bill provides that the central government may confer on a SHRC human rights functions being discharged by Union Territories. Functions relating to human rights in the case of Delhi will be dealt with by the NHRC.
Lok Sabha continues its discussion on RTI amendments. Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) says RTI is an important act, and the governments (both past and present) have sought amendments to dilute the law. This is one such attempt, he says.
He reminds the House that a whistleblowers protection bill is still pending. He warns the amendment will reduce the information commission to another government department.
Responding to the Point of Order, the Chair says once the Chairman gives the permission, and the Bill is discussed, only the member who made the amendments can move. The decision will be taken on the amendments by the Chair, he says and urges the members to cooperate.
Prabhat Jha continues to speak. He claims in the garb of NGO, these agencies were getting funds from foreign nations.
M. Venkaiah Naidu informs the House that the Chandrayaan-2 has been successfully launched. The House unanimously applauds the feat.
Mr. Naidu also remembers Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme.
Rajya Sabha reassembles. Sloganeering continues. Prabhat Jha (BJP) continues to speak. Sukhendu Shekar Roy seeks a Point of Order. He says several members want to give amendments but there is no time. Has the rule been dispensed with? he asks.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition, says the rules are clear. There needs to be at least two days time to go through the Bill. The rule gives discretionary power to the Chair. But there is no urgency in passing this Bill. Let members get their due, he says.
Bhpendra Yadav (BJP) says it was decided that the amendments can be accepted till 11.00 am.
A. Raja (DMK) is the next speaker. He dismisses government’s argument that CIC cannot be equated with the CEC since the former is a statutory body, while the latter is a constitutional body.
Democracy is a continuous process and doesn’t end with elections, he says.
Sougata Roy (Trinamool) says the government brought the amendment to curtail the powers of information commissioners. Pointing out at how several RTI activists were killed, Mr. Roy says it is a lifeline for 40-60 lakh of ordinary users.
BJP member Jagadambika Pal speaks in favour of RTI Act amendments. He says this is a simple Bill seeking to change the tenure and salary. The role of RTI is not being diluted as Opposition claims.
Mr. Pal says the government has taken several steps to strengthen RTI including online portal, fine for official who delays giving details, etc. He says the government including former Congress leader Mallikharjun Kharge as an invitee, even though he was not a Leader of Opposition. “This shows the government is transparent in appointing CIC,” he says.
In Rajya Sabha, Deputy Chairperson allows discussion on The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019. He asks the Left members to move statutory resolution opposing the Bill. But nothing is audible as opposition members continue to protest.
House is adjourned till 3 pm.
Shashi Tharoor strongly objects to the Bill and seeks its withdrawal. Are you bringing this amendment because an information commissioner asked the PMO to reveal the PM’s educational details? he asks.
Mr. Tharoor asks what’s the hurry in bulldozing every bill without scrutiny. He asks why the government is delay to constitute the parliamentary standing committees.
Lok Sabha resumes and takes up amendments to Right to Information Act.
The he Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to remove the fixed tenure of CICs and ICs. Right now, the tenure is fixed for five years, but the Bill seeks to remove this provision and states that the central government will notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.
The salary for the CIC will be the same as Chief Election Commissioner. But the bill seeks to change this and allows the government to fix the salary.
Rajya Sabha resumes. Derek O Brien argues with the Harivansh about discussion of the protection of Dalit rights through a notice. Mr. Harivansh proceeds with The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019, asking it to be moved.
Protesting members continue to chant slogans and throw papers in the air. ‘Dalit-opposing government won’t do,’ the protesters chant.
Anand Sharma, INC raises a point of order, saying that in absence of a standing committee, it is unfair on the members to proceed with the consideration of amendments in such a short notice. He claims that the government is in a hurry to pass the Bills.
Prabhat Jha and other BJP leaders say that the protesting members are obstructing human rights by not letting the Bills being discussed.
Question hour begins in Rajya Sabha. Rehabilitation of villages and Road accidents are being discussed. The Opposition Bench sloganeers against what they called government’s injustice towards minorities. Chants of ‘justice’ echo. The Deputy Chairman, Harivansh Narayan Singh, continues to conduct the Sabha despite the persistent noise. However, after 12 minutes of continuous agitation, the Chair announces that the house is adjourned till 2 p.m.
Rajya Sabha also announces that the upper house is adjourned till 12 p.m. after which The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and The Appropriation (No.2) Bill, 2019 will be taken up for consideration and passing.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla pays his respects to Ram Chandra Paswan and Sheila Dikshit. The Sabha mourns for a minute, and the house is adjourned till 2 p.m.
Parliament proceedings live| Lok Sabha passes the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill – The Hindu