Rajya Sabha logjam ends but no consensus on GST Bill

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New Delhi | Updated: December 18, 2015 6:56:04 PM

The logjam in Rajya Sabha was broken today with Opposition agreeing for passage of some bills and allowing its normal functioning in remaining three days of Winter session...

Goods and services tax, GST billOn GST bill, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that FM Arun Jaitley made an appeal to the opposition to pass the constitution bill as well in the conducive atmosphere that has emerged after the meeting. (Reuters)

The logjam in Rajya Sabha was broken today with Opposition agreeing for passage of some bills and allowing its normal functioning in remaining three days of Winter session after an all-party meeting convened by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari but a consensus eluded GST.

After the hour-long deliberations, Ansari said the meeting was “good”.

Members from different parties decided to pass the SC ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, the Appropriation Bills, the Anti Hijacking Bill, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, the Commercial Courts Ordinance Bill and the Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Bill by December 23 when the current session comes to an end, sources said.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “nothing new was discussed at this meeting apart from what was discussed earlier at the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting.”

When asked whether Congress has agreed to passage of some bills, he said that some of the bills on which his party has committed support like the SC/ST bill will be passed alongwith Appropriation Bill.

“There was no discussion on GST. The discussion was on some bills on which there is a general consensus. Everybody is aware that there is no consensus on GST. Not only Congress has some reservations but other parties also ,” Azad said when asked whether any decision on GST was taken in the meeting.

The GST bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha, must be passed by the Rajya Sabha by December 23 and then sent to the states for passage to enable the GST regime to be rolled out by April 1, 2016.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, said, “there has been a very meaningful discussion in the meeting. A number of parties have expressed concern over Parliament not functioning.

“All of them decided that the House should function. It has been decided to pass the pending government bills even by sitting late,” he said.

Asked about the crucial GST bill, Naqvi said that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made an appeal to the opposition to pass the constitution bill as well in the conducive atmosphere that has emerged after the meeting.

“But, I don’t think the main opposition party has an agreement on this,” he said, adding that other opposition parties favour a passage of the bill.

Ever since the winter session started on November 26, proceedings in the Rajya Sabha have been disrupted over a variety of issues with Congress accusing the Modi government of “political vendetta” in the wake of the National Herald case. The Arunachal Pradesh imbroglio and Union Minister V K Singh’s ‘dog’ remarks also triggered uproar in the House.

It was also decided that three bills – the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, the Whistle Blowers Protection Amendment Bill and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill – will be discussed during the remaining period but the course of action will be decided upon later.

Opposition wants two bills including the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill to be referred to a Select Committee.

During the meeting it was also decided that discussions on matters of public importance like price rise, impact of flood and drought on agriculture, intolerance and a discussion on the developments in Arunachal Pradesh will also be taken up during the last three days.

Naqvi said that members have agreed to compensate for the loss of legislative business in the House by working for extra hours.

Asked if the issue of giving more powers to Rajya Sabha Chairman to act against members disrupting the House was discussed at the meeting, he replied in the negative.

The meeting also saw Naresh Gujral (SAD) asking both the major parties BJP and Congress to sort out the differences among them to avoid disruptions in Parliament.

After the meeting, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said,”the Rajya Sabha was not functioning till today, except that we passed one bill and some other intervention took place. The Chairman was very disturbed and anguished over this. Many of us share that feeling and seeing that there are only three more days left, called a meeting of the leaders of all parties.”

Kurien said that through that meeting Ansari expressed his anguish and also urged members to pass at least those bills for which there is general consensus and agreement.

“He also listed such bills. About six bills he listed and appealed to the leaders that they should cooperate in running the House smoothly and in disposing of these bills and the leaders of all parties responded favourably and positively.

“Therefore it was decided that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 to 4 pm these bills will be taken and 4 pm onwards there are certain issues over which the members are agitated and those issues will be taken up and the House may sit beyond 6 pm for disposing those discussions,” Kurien said.

The Bills on which there is broad agreement are SC/ST bill anti hijacking bill, appropriation bills, attomic energy bill, commercial courts Ordinance and the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill.

“In addition to that three bills we will be taking up, Child labour bill, whistleblower bill and juvenile justice bill, these bills will be taken up and they will be discussed and disposed of or may be sent to select committee as the House decides,” Kurien said.

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