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‘Delay in Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman polls goes against norms’

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House General Secretary says position is not optional

There is no provision in the rules to do away with the position of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha and delaying the election is against parliamentary propriety, Secretary General of Rajya Sabha Desh Deepak Verma said on Thursday.

The election of the Deputy Chairman of the Upper House has been reduced to a game of who will blink first between the opposition and the government, with the growing speculation that the government would indefinitely want to delay the election. The position fell vacant after the retirement of P.J. Kurien on June 30.

Speaking exclusively to The Hindu, Mr. Verma said it is impractical to indefinitely delay the election. Asked whether the post could be done away with, he said, “No, it is provided in the rules. It will be against parliamentary propriety and also impractical to indefinitely delay it [the election]. There is a panel of Vice-Chairman [the RS has a panel of six to seven senior members as part of Vice-President’s panel who officiate in his absence]. But the panel can’t play the role of Deputy Chairman.”

Mr. Verma did not specify when the election will be held. “That is a political question which I can’t answer. I can only talk about the provisions. Whenever a vacancy arises, the election takes place in the very next session. But again, no deadlines have been prescribed for the election,” he added.

RS Chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar held a meeting on the provisions of Deputy Chairman’s election on June 19. But since then there has been no word from the government.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has also not called for a meeting to build consensus on any name.

Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha administration is busy finalising several changes in the existing rules to ensure smooth functioning of the house. The rules review committee, headed by former Secretary General of Rajya Sabha V.K. Agnihotri has submitted its interim report. One of the key suggestions made has been the automatic suspension of a wilful disruptor.

Change in rules

Mr. Verma told The Hindu that the review committee has suggested that if an errant member is suspended at the end of the day, then he will be barred from entering the house the next day too. “The other recommendation is that the suspended member will be treated as absent and the members will not get dearness allowance for that day. However, these are just the recommendations — we will build a political consensus for it. It will go to the Rules Committee and finally the House has to clear these changes,” he added.

The Review Committee has also recommended that a bill should be allowed to be passed amidst a din. “There is a convention that if there is a din in the House, the bill must not be passed. There is a feeling that we need to deviate from this norm. Disruptions were earlier an exception but now they have become a rule. It has almost become a tool to not let the government business to go on. The committee is looking for a way to make sure that the bill can be passed in din too, at least in exceptional cases,” Mr Verma said.