Cong says listed Parliament business could have waited until winter session
Soon after the government announced the agenda for a special session of Parliament, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was the first to criticise it
Even as the government has shared the agenda for the five-day special session of Parliament with particular focus on four bills, the Congress has questioned the necessity of calling the session, asking what was the urgency as these bills could have waited until the winter session, adding that it will oppose the CEC Bill in Parliament.
Soon after the government announced the agenda for the special session on Wednesday, Congress general secretary and communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh was the first to slam the government.
In a post on X, Ramesh said, “Finally, after pressure from Sonia Gandhi's letter to the Prime Minister, the Modi government has condescended to announce the agenda for the special 5-day session of Parliament beginning September 18."
He said that the agenda as published is much ado about nothing — all this could have waited until the winter session in November.
"I am sure the legislative grenades are being kept up their sleeves to be unleashed at the last moment as usual. Parde ke peeche kuch aur hai (something is behind the scenes). Regardless, the INDIA parties will steadfastly oppose the insidious CEC Bill," Ramesh, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, said.
Last week, Congress parliamentary party chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that the agenda of the special Parliament session ought to be disclosed to all parties. She listed nine issues for discussion, including the demand for a joint parliamentary committee, caste census, the issue of Manipur, rise in communal tension in different states like Haryana, continued occupation of Indian territory by China and challenges to our sovereignty on our borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
"Urgent need for a caste census. Damages being inflicted on Centre-State relations. Impact of natural disasters caused by extreme floods in some states and drought in others," she had said.
The Centre has listed a discussion titled 'Parliamentary Journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories, and Learnings' in the Lok Sabha during the special session. The government has also included the much-debated CEC Bill concerning the appointment of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners in its "tentative" legislative agenda. The bill was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha's monsoon session.
Among the other bills slated for discussion during the special session are The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023, The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, and The Post Office Bill, 2023.
Meanwhile, a Congress source who is currently in Hyderabad for the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, said that the party will raise multiple issues in the upcoming Parliament session.
He said the government’s Bill to regulate the appointment, conditions of service and term of office of the chief election commissioner and the other election commissioners to be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a panel comprising the prime minister, leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha, and a Union cabinet minister nominated by the prime minister will be opposed by the party.
The source said that the Congress and the Opposition believe that if this bill becomes a law, it will affect the autonomy of the Election Commission and it will be transformed into a government election commission instead of being independent.
The source also said that the Election Commission is the last independent body to conduct free and democratic elections in India.
The source pointed out that a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has clearly said that if the Election Commission is not fair, then democracy cannot survive in the country.
“Therefore, a three-person panel was formed to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner, consisting of the Chief Justice, Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, so that a balance is maintained,” he said.
And if the Bill is passed in Parliament, it will end the autonomy and independence of the Election Commission, he said
On 10 August, the Centre tabled the proposed law in the Rajya Sabha that sought to effectively displace a Supreme Court judgment that divested the executive of the absolute power to appoint the CEC and ECs by including the Chief Justice of India as a member of the selection panel.
According to the bill, the President will ratify the appointments following the recommendation of a selection body consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition (LoP), and a cabinet minister who would be nominated by the Prime Minister.
A Constitution bench judgment on 2 March had said that the CEC and the ECs will be chosen by a panel comprising the Prime Minister, the LoP (or the leader of the single largest Opposition party in Parliament) and the CJI, till Parliament passes a law on appointments.
When asked about the how the grand old party will utilise the special session of Parliament, the source said that the party will raise the issues of public importance like inflation, as the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities have been hurting the poor and the middle class, even the issue of unemployment is very grim, whereas the continued violence in Manipur is a serious issue.
To another question on how it plans to tackle the government over its public relations blitz on the G20 Summit, the source said that the government is far from the reality as the ground situation is completely different with issues of inflation, unemployment, violence in several parts of the country, corruption, China occupying our land etc and the opposition plans to corner the government on these.
The source added that there might be some hidden agenda of the government that it has not listed but it will be dealt with by the party and the members of the INDIA bloc in Parliament.