Congress MP Manish Tewari on Sunday claimed that all bills passed after the no-confidence motion was admitted in the Lok Sabha are “constitutionally suspect” and asserted that any substantive legislative business must succeed the outcome of the motion, not precede it.
The former Union minister also said the 10-day period for scheduling a discussion on the no-confidence motion tabled in the Lok Sabha cannot be used to “steam roll” bills.
The Lok Sabha MP’s assertion comes as the bill to replace the Delhi services ordinance is set to come up in the House this week.
In an interview with PTI, Mr Tewari said once the no-confidence motion has been tabled in the Lok Sabha, any legislation or material business brought before the House is “completely in violation of morality, propriety and parliamentary conventions”.
He claimed the very legality of all the legislations which have been passed in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha after the no-confidence motion was admitted would have to be examined by a court of law as to whether they were legally passed or not.
All legislative business transacted after the no-confidence motion was tabled is “constitutionally suspect”, he claimed.
On the BJP comparing the 2018 no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government and the massive mandate it got in the 2019 elections with the current scenario, Mr Tewari said, “If history repeats itself once, it is a tragedy and if it does so twice, it is a farce.”
A no-confidence motion by the Congress on behalf of the opposition alliance INDIA against the government was admitted in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, amid concerted efforts by the anti-BJP bloc to force Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak on the contentious Manipur issue in Parliament.
Asked about the numbers not adding up for the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc for the no-confidence motion, Mr Tewari said it was not a question of numbers but of morality.
“What has happened in Manipur and what is continuing to happen there is absolutely reprehensible. There is a BJP government in the state, there is a BJP government at the Centre. Therefore, somebody needs to take responsibility,” Mr Tewari told PTI.
He said the opposition expected the prime minister to make a suo motu statement in both Houses of Parliament on the “extremely critical situation” in Manipur and that statement would have been succeeded by a discussion.
But, unfortunately, the prime minister chose to make a very “cursory remark” just before the commencement of the Monsoon session. After that, adjournment motions tabled in both Houses of Parliament repeatedly were not admitted by the presiding officers, the Congress leader said.
“Thus the joint opposition was left with no option but to bring this no-confidence motion to enforce the principle of morality, probity and accountability in public life which must be the sine qua non of any governance,” he asserted.
Asked about the expectations from Prime Minister Modi’s response to the no-confidence motion, Mr Tewari said the motion states that “this house expresses want of confidence in the council of ministers” and the reason for that want of confidence has publicly been articulated “ad nauseum” for the past one week.
“So under those circumstances, if the prime minister chooses not to respond to Manipur it would be a travesty,” the MP from Punjab’s Anandpur Sahib said.
On the BJP’s contention that in the past instances of violence in the northeast, ministers have replied and not the prime minister, Mr Tewari said the Modi government could have accepted adjournment motions submitted by opposition MPs.
“We had been tabling adjournment motions every day. The government could have accepted the adjournment motions, which can be replied to by a minister. The government chose not to accept them,” he said.
“Under these circumstances, if the prime minister could speak outside Parliament and say that the developments in Manipur have made our heads hang in collective shame, then what was the hesitation and diffidence in coming and addressing Parliament on the same issue,” Mr Tewari argued.
Asked whether the bill to replace the Delhi services ordinance should be brought after the no-confidence motion is deliberated and voted upon, Mr Tewari said, “Even (the book by) MN Kaul and SL Shakdher, which I had quoted, is explicit that once the no-confidence motion is accepted by the Speaker, no other business should be given precedence.” Mr Tewari recalled that in July 1966 when a no-confidence motion was brought against the government, the then minister for parliamentary affairs, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, had accepted the fact that once such a motion is before the House, no other material business should be transacted.
Asked about the opposition’s insistence on discussing the no-confidence motion immediately despite the rules talking of a 10-day period for scheduling, Mr Tewari said it was for the simple reason that when there is want of confidence in the council of ministers, what is the locus that the government to bring legislations and get them passed in the House.
“Those 10 days are there because if the presiding officer in his wisdom wants to adjourn the House and take it up at a later point in time within 10 days, that flexibility has been given to the presiding officer to schedule the vote of confidence,” he said.
It is not a period that can be utilised to “steam roll” legislations or substantive policy matters through the House without any discussion, the Congress leader asserted.
Asked whether the constituents of the INDIA alliance would take part in the debate if the bill to replace Delhi ordinance is taken up for consideration before the no-confidence motion or will they oppose its introduction and boycott it till the motion is taken up, Mr Tewari said that would be a call which the INDIA alliance has to take.
There is a general sense that the ordinance is a “serious assault on federalism”, he said.
“According to me, every legislation, important or unimportant, should succeed the outcome of a no-confidence motion and not precede it,” the Congress MP said.
On disruption rather than debate becoming the norm, Mr Tewari said while disruption is a legitimate parliamentary tactic, the responsibility of running Parliament rests squarely on the shoulders of the government.
The doctrine of disruption being a legitimate parliamentary tactic was not coined by the Congress but by the BJP’s Arun Jaitely when he was the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, he said.
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