Amid a stand-off between the government and the Opposition over the passage of some bills, Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said he was “deeply distressed” by the behaviour of “some sections” in the Upper House in the last two years. He also appealed to the MPs to show “exemplary conduct” in ensuring effective functioning of Parliament.
"As chairman of the Rajya Sabha it pains me if members choose to disregard rules, conventions and the code of conduct resulting in pandemonium, which in turn, erodes the stature of the House in the eyes of public," Naidu said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a function to distribute awards instituted by the Maharashtra Election Commission to 14 persons and organisations who have worked to improve the awareness and voter participation in local bodies elections.
The Rajya Sabha had witnessed high drama on Thursday during the debate on the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill and later when the Opposition motion to refer the bill to a select committee was put to vote.
“I am deeply distressed by the behaviour of some sections in the Rajya Sabha in the last two years as the presiding officer of the Upper House. Parliament functions as per rules, conventions, earlier rulings of the Chair and the code of conduct prescribed for members,” the Rajya Sabha chairman said.
Amid a stand-off between the government and the Opposition over the passage of certain bills without scrutiny, as many as 17 parties on Friday wrote to Naidu asking him to ensure the voice of the Opposition is “not smothered” in the Upper House.
“During this session, some members in their wisdom have preferred to tear official papers and throw them at the Chair on some occasions. Such conduct does not speak well of the functioning of our parliamentary democracy,” Naidu said.
Without taking name of SP MP Azam Khan, he condemned the objectionable remarks made by him against a woman BJP MP who was chairing the session. Khan’s remarks were expunged from the proceedings following uproar.
“Members of that House (Lok Sabha) have rightly voiced outrage over the comments of that member (Khan). It is not in our civilisation to disrespect women. Such behaviour demean our parliamentary democracy,” Naidu said.
The vice president said people have imbibed the true spirit of democracy by regularly voting in elections in rising numbers.
“People expect their representatives to conduct themselves in the best possible manner. However, I am sad to say on this occasion that the elected representatives often do not match the democratic spirit of our people through their conduct in the legislatures,” he said.
He said “disorder, disruption and delay in legislation” cannot replace “debate, discussion and decision”, which are hallmarks of democracy.
The Opposition and the government are rivals and not enemies, Naidu added.
“Rivalry is leading to enmity in some places. Both (government and Opposition) need to function as joint stake-holders and need to compete in serving the people.
“Stalling the functioning of legislatures means subverting democracy and betraying the people. The best way of going forward is to let the Opposition have its say and the government have its way,” he said.
Dismissing the Opposition’s charge that their members were not granted enough time to raise issues, the Rajya Sabha chairman said he always ensured the Opposition had its say in all aspects of functioning of the Upper House.
“I have always advocated a sense of balance and a spirit of accommodation. We are the largest democracy in the world. We shall be the best in terms of its quality as well. I urge upon both the ruling and Opposition parties in all the legislatures of the country to be guided by such a spirit of mutual respect and accommodation,” he added.