Rajya Sabha passes Disability Bill, first legislative action in Winter Session

For the first time since the Winter session began on November 16, Rajya Sabha on Wednesday saw a legislative action as it passed the Disabilities Bill.

PTI| Updated: Dec 14, 2016, 20:20 PM IST
Rajya Sabha passes Disability Bill, first legislative action in Winter Session
Representational image

New Delhi: For the first time since the Winter session began on November 16, Rajya Sabha on Wednesday saw a legislative action as it passed the Disabilities Bill in a cordial atmosphere which did not last long as the Opposition again created uproar, leading to early adjournment for the day.

In the Lok Sabha, however, stand-off between the government and the Opposition resulted in a washout again.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed unusual bonhomie and meeting of minds over the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, with both the Opposition and the government agreeing to pass it, setting aside temporarily their confrontation over demonetisation and other issues like alleged misuse of office Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju with regard to a power project in Arunachal Pradesh.

The foundation for it was laid as soon as the House met for the day, with members cutting across party lines pitching for immediate passage of the "crucial" legislation without any discussion.

Among those who pressed for it were Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, BSP chief Mayawati, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and SP leader Naresh Agarwal.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi agreed to immediately take up the bill which stipulates up to two-year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons.

Expressing happiness over the rare unanimity on display, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien decided to set aside the Zero Hour to take up the bill. However, he did not agree to passage of the bill without any debate, saying there could be some members who would like to speak on it, particularly those who have moved amendments.

Accordingly, the process to pass the bill took place partly during the Zero Hour and partly in post-lunch session.

However, as soon as the bill was passed, uproar was again witnessed as Congress members raked up the demonetisation issue and Rijiju matter.

This led to adjournment of the House till tomorrow at around 2.45 pm.

The Disabilities Bill, passed just three days before the

Parliament session ends, aims at securing and enhancing the rights and entitlements of disabled persons.

It provides for imprisonment of at least six months up to two years, along with a fine ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons.

The bill also gives effect to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters.

Earlier during Zero Hour, Azad said priority should be given to the passage of the Bill. "This should be passed without any discussion."

He said if the Bill is not passed today, it cannot be taken up by the Lok Sabha for passage in the current session ending Friday. "You can take it up right now (and) pass it straight away without any discussion," he said.

Similar views were expressed by Mayawati and Agarwal, leading to consideration of the legislation which was moved by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot.

During the short debate, some members pointed out that the reservation for the disabled should be against the cadre strength and not vacancies.

In response to some amendments moved by K K Ragesh and Yechury (both CPI-M), Gehlot said while framing rules efforts would be made to ensure that four per cent reservation is granted against cadre strength.

Yechury also pointed out that the original bill had a provision of 5 per cent reservation for the disabled, but the amendment was for 4 per cent only.

To this, Gehlot said the bill has raised the quota from the prevailing 3 per cent to 4 per cent.

The process of passing the bill was still underway when the clock struck noon and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Hamid Ansari came in to conduct the Question Hour. Some members said the process of consideration and passage of the Bill be continued.

However, Ansari said Question Hour should be taken up.

Meanwhile, Congress members were seen on their feet, including its Deputy Leader Anand Sharma, with some of them being heard raising slogans over allegations against Rijiju.

Ansari insisted on taking up the Question Hour and told the members that there cannot be a 'Jekyll and Hyde' character. However as the protests continued, he adjourned the House till 2 pm.

When the House re-convened, rare unanimity was witnessed again and the Disability bill was passed.

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.

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 against Rijiju are "totally false and fabricated. ... I dare you for a debate on this."

Particularly addressing the Congress members, he said, "Your party is misleading you."

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. 

In the Lok Sabha, the three-week deadlock over

demonetisation issue deepened with the government accusing the Opposition of making attempts to fail the "pro-poor" decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, inviting a furious response.

Congress members were also angry over Speaker Sumitra Mahajan's decision to allow Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) to raise the issue of AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal scam, ignoring their leader Mallikarjun Kharge's plea to have his say. Sonia Gandhi too was seen protesting against Mahajan's decision.

Kharge shouted angrily as to why the BJD member was allowed to speak as he repeatedly banged the bench.

With members of Congress, TMC and others raising slogans in the Well, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar fired a fresh salvo at the Opposition, citing a sting operation aired on a news channel to allege that Congress, SP and BSP leaders had joined hands to "finish off" the government's efforts to bolster the white economy.

Kumar insisted that the ruling side was ready for a discussion on demonetisation but the Opposition was running away and disrupting proceedings.

"It is a very sad day. The leader (Kharge) of the Opposition is challenging the Speaker. He cannot do that. It is very unfortunate. We are always ready for discussion," Kumar said and then cited the sting to attack the Opposition.

"They have become 'note-jugaad' (managing currency) parties. It is a conspiracy to finish off what Modi has brought for the poor," he said.

Jagdambika Pal (BJP) claimed that the Opposition would be exposed. "It is a matter of shame that the Congress which participated in freedom struggle has become a commission agents," he said amid vociferous slogan-shouting by Opposition.

Opposition members were also heard raising slogans against Union Minister Kiren Rijiju over an alleged case of corruption in an Arunachal pradesh hydal project.

With ruckus continuing, the Speaker adjourned the House for the day.