Rajya Sabha was adjourned twice on Wednesday following protests over the controversy involving Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju.
Opposition members shouted slogans and indulged in heated exchanges with BJP members over the alleged misuse of office by Rijiju with regard to a power project in Arunachal Pradesh, besides also raising anti-government slogans on the demonetisation issue. During the Question Hour at noon, some members were heard raising slogans over allegations against the Minister.
Chairman Hamid Ansari pressed for taking up the Question Hour and was heard saying that there cannot be “Jekyll and Hyde character.” However as the protests continued, Ansari adjourned the House till 1400 hours. When the House reassembled, rare unanimity was witnessed as the members passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014. The House had discussed the Bill for a short while soon after it had met at 1100 hours, with some of them even suggesting that it should be adopted without debate.
After the Bill was passed, Anand Sharma (Cong) raised the issue of allegations against Rijiju, which led protests from the members from the Treasury benches. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien told Sharma: “There is rule, there is a procedure. Go by that. You cannot suo motu raise an allegation.”
Members of the Congress and the BJP indulged in shouting slogans and counter-slogans in the House. Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the allegations are “totally false and fabricated. ... I dare you for a debate on this.”
“Your party is misleading you,” he particularly told Congress members. Kurien told Sharma that to raise an allegation, a member has to give prior intimation to the Chairman.
Sharma said he was merely referring to the media reports, which was not accepted by the Deputy Chairman. Amidst constant din, Kurien adjourned the House for the day.
Meanwhile, defending Rijiju his cabinet colleague M Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday rubbished the allegations levelled against him, saying it was part of Congress’ “spit and run” tactics. He said the the Power Ministry has already given a clarification and Congress does not even know that the project was sanctioned when it was in power at the Centre.
PM reviews note ban, discusses ways of digitisation
PM Modi on Wednesday reviewed his decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes with his Cabinet colleagues, and discussed ways to fast track digitisation to enable larger cashless transactions.
The PM initiated the discussion on the move, which was announced last month, with the ministers after the meeting of the Union Cabinet ended here this evening. As it was not on the agenda, the issue was taken up after the Cabinet meeting was over. The meeting assumes importance with the Centre’s deadline of December 30.
The focus of the meeting remained digitisation, sources said, adding that issues like digital wallet services also came up for discussion. The government wants to expand the scope of this digital payment mode so that they can be accepted at more places like metro stations and petrol pumps. A three-member committee of secretaries is already in place to study ways of transitioning India into a cashless economy.
Captain seeks demonetisation rollback; writes to CJI, HC CJ
Dubbing demonetisation a “complete failure” and its implementation a “total fiasco”, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh on Wednesday sought its rollback and intervention of Chief Justice of India and the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Amarinder in a letter to the Chief Justices, urged them to treat his communication as a “public interest petition” and demanded intervention in what he termed as “a clear violation of the people’s fundamental rights”.
Expressing concern over the deaths, suicides and other tragic losses in various parts of the country following demonetisation, he called upon the government to look at “some alternate solution” to its decision.
“In any case, it was not achieving its objective of curbing black money,” he said pointing out that huge sums of money in new currency were being recovered from individuals while the common people were unable to get even the bare minimum needed for their survival.
Amarinder said that concerned over the shocking deaths and tragic losses being suffered by people, he requested Chief Justices of India and the Punjab and Haryana High Court to treat his letter as a public interest petition and issue suitable directives to government to prevent further aggravation of the tensions triggered by the “ill-conceived” demonetisation move.
In his letter, he said demonetisation order “lacked legal backing” and was subject to judicial scrutiny since it was a mere notification.
He also termed it a “violation of the people’s right” to use their property (bank account being property) under Article 31 of the Constitution of India. “It was violative of the fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 21 as it deprived people of their right to business, profession, travel and access to health care,” he said in his petition.
In Punjab’s context, Amarinder said the agriculture sector, which was largely dependent on cash transactions, had been hit hard, along with the informal sector.
“No law passed by this country can be so done unilaterally by a majority government in power, much less by a few persons in government,” he said in his letter, adding that laws relating to national security, money laundering, terrorism, corruption, are routinely dealt with in such manner.
He pointed out that the measure was ostensibly taken in national security, to reduce corruption and as a counter measure to fake currency, “but by pushing it in this manner, the government had indulged in a serious contradiction with the spirit of the parent legislation”.