NEW DELHI: Without naming Jammu and Kashmir which was recently bifurcated into two Union territories, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, while speaking on the role of Rajya Sabha in the Indian polity, said the Upper House should have a greater say in legislations dealing with redrawing boundaries of states.
“…on some matters, this House should be given greater respect by the Executive, that is not the case now. For example, important issues like redrawing the boundaries of a state…converting them into Union territories, is such a far-reaching proposal or legislation, this House, a council of states, should be given more powers to deal with these issues,” Singh said on the first day of the 250th session of the House.
The former PM asserted that the government should consult with the Council of States much more effectively before such drastic measures can be considered by the House as a whole. He said that bills of critical importance must be shared in advance to enable better discussion and engagement on the subject on the floor of the House.
Singh also emphasised on the role of Rajya Sabha to ensure “checks and balances”. He said the RS has a central role to provide checks and balances to a majority government and also to represent the states in our federal Union.
“We should do everything to justify to the public of our country that a second chamber (Rajya Sabha) is necessary to prevent hasty legislation. It is our duty to ensure that no law is passed in haste and in an atmosphere of heightened emotions,” Singh added.
Singh also raised a critical issue which the opposition has been raising time and again on scrutiny of bills by parliamentary committees. He told the House that in the 16th Lok Sabha, only 25 per cent of the bills introduced were referred to the committees. This figure was 71 per cent and the 60 per cent in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively, Singh shared. Singh added that it is important for the RS to form select committees to ensure that the bills receive detailed scrutiny.
During the discussion, BJP MP Bhupender Yadav chose to respond to Singh’s concerns on bills not being referred to parliamentary committees. He pointed that the record of 10 years shows that between 2009-14, five bills were referred to select committees and between 2014-19, 17 bills were referred.
He also said while BJP got the bill for the reorganisation of J&K passed with the support of 16 parties, the UPA government had secured passage of the legislation for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh by shutting the protesting members out. He also recalled the ugly incident of a UPA member tearing off the Lok Pal bill as part of the strategy to thwart its passage.
“For our chamber (Rajya Sabha) to fully function, it is required that we scrutinise the bills more thoroughly in (parliamentary) committees, where not only the members can apply their mind, even the opinion of stakeholders can be solicited,” Singh said.
On the misuse of the provisions of money bills, Singh said, “Article 110 allows precedence of Lok Sabha over the matters in money bills. In the recent past, we have seen instances of misuse of money bills’ provisions by the executive, leading to bypassing the Rajya Sabha.” Other members too raised the issue.
Congress MP Anand Sharma joined issue with Bhupender Yadav on the latter’s statement about NDA government sending more legislations to the select committee than UPA. The deputy leader of Congress said BJP government was referring legislations to select committees because they were not being sent to standing committees as used to be the case earlier.

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