Two bills passed on first day of winter session, Rajya Sabha discontinues suspension of Raghav Chadha

Dec 04, 2023

New Delhi [India], December 4 : The first day of the Winter Session of Parliament saw two bills being passed with the Rajya Sabha also deciding to discontinue suspension of AAP MP Raghav Chadha.
The Standing committee reports on 'The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023', 'The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023', and 'The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023' were tabled in the two Houses. The reports were submitted to the Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar on November 10 by Brij Lal, MP and Chairman of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs. The three bills are on the agenda of the government for passage in the winter session of Parliament.
The report of Ethics Committee, which looked into cash-for-query allegations Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, was not tabled in the Lok Sabha though it was in the listed agenda.
Rajya Sabha passed the Bill to repeal the Indian Post Office Act, 1898 and to consolidate and amend the law relating to the post offices in India.
The opposition members raised questions over some provisions of the bill and asked if the government wanted to create a "surveillance state".
The government rejected the apprehensions of the members. Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan said provisions have been made for reasons of national security and there were similar provisions in the previous version of the Post Office Bill too.
"The government has a right to keep track of illegal substances like narcotics being transported through postal networks and this is in the public interest," Chauhan said.
The Bill states that the Central Government may, by notification, empower any officer to intercept, open or detain "any item in the interest of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, emergency, or public safety or upon the occurrence of any contravention of any of the provisions of any law for the time being in force".
The bill was passed by a voice vote after a reply by the Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw.
The bill provides that Post Office shall provide such services as the Central Government may by rules prescribe and the Director General of Postal Services shall make regulations in respect of activities necessary to provide those services and fix the charges for such services.
The bill provides India Post will not incur any liability with regards to its services, except any liability prescribed through rules.
Participating in the debate, opposition members said the bill provides that the government can open any parcel.
YSRCP's V Vijayasai Reddy supported the Bill and said it is a step towards three pillars of good postal service, reliability, reach, and relevance.
Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi raised surveillance concerns "under the garb of reforms".
The MP said that clauses 9 and 10 of the Post Office Bill can lead to surveillance and authorities responsible will not be held liable once this Bill is passed.
Chaturvedi also mentioned that she wrote a letter to the government about messages received by some Opposition members about possible hacking.
CPI's P Sandosh Kumar said he was grateful to the Communications Minister for retaining the name of the Bill in English so that it is "understandable to each and every Indian".
AAP MP Raghav Chadha alleged that the Post Office Bill has "Big Brother syndrome".
"The legislation betrays a 'Big Brother' syndrome that plagues the government as it will give the government unchecked power to open, read, detain and intercept mail and take whatever action they like, without due limitations embedded in the law. The grounds to open and intercept mail are vague and the Bill fails to specify procedures for allowing such interception," Chadha said.
He also raised the issue of the recent iPhone hacking alerts and called for an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the attack.
Lok Sabha passed the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023 which is in line with the government's policy of repealing all obsolete laws or pre-independence Acts which have lost their utility.
The Government in consultation with the Bar Council of India has decided to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879. It has decided to amend the Advocates Act, 1961 by incorporating the provisions of section 36 of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1879 in the Advocates Act, 1961 so as to reduce the number of superfluous enactments in the statute book.
Replying to the debate on the Bill, Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said the bill would also help to regulate the legal profession by a single Act, the Advocates Act, 1961.
Rajya Sabha on Monday decided to discontinue suspension of Raghav Chadha holding him "guilty of breach of privilege" but noting that the suspension suffered by him so far be taken as sufficient punishment.
The motion for discontinuing the suspension of Raghav Chadha, on the first day of the winter session of Parliament, was moved by BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao after Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar asked him to do so.
Chadha was suspended from the Upper House on August 11, during the Monsoon session.
The report was presented in the House by CPI-M member Elamaram Kareem.
The Chairman said the committee after "deep and thoughtful consideration" has found Raghav Chadha guilty of both the charges levelled against him.
"Charge one (is) that he intentionally and deliberately presented misleading facts to the media, misinterpreted proceedings of the council, resulting in affront to the authority of Chairman Rajya Sabha and engaged in outrageous defiance of the resolutions of the house and directives of the honourable chairman of the Rajya Sabha," Dhankhar said.
"As regards the sentence, the committee finds the suspension suffered by him since 11th August 2023 from the house thus far as the sufficient sentence that will meet the ends of justice. The committee stands committed to upholding the sanctity of Parliamentary proceedings and safeguarding the integrity of the institution. The committee expresses hope that Raghav Chadha will reflect and introspect," he added.
Moving the motion, GVL Narasimha Rao said that the House resolves that Raghav Chadha, "be held guilty of breach of privileges, and the suspension suffered by him so far be taken as sufficient punishment and the house may consider discontinuance of suspension of Raghav Chadha, member, from the service of the Council from this day".
After the motion was adopted, Dhankhar announced that Chadha may now attend the proceedings of the House.
He was suspended till the Privilege Committee submitted its findings on the allegation against him for forging the signatures of five MPs in a motion related to the Delhi Services Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Chadha had moved to the Supreme Court court, challenging his indefinite suspension from the Upper House. Following hearings in the case, the Supreme Court asked Chadha to meet Jagdeep Dhankhar and tender an unconditional apology.
Dhankhar also urged members of the House to exemplify conduct which can be emulated by others and also told them to go through the report of Privileges Committee which held AAP member Raghav Chadha "guilty" of two charges against him.
The Chairman made the remarks amid a brief din in the House when Union Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was replying to a debate on the bill.
"I make a very fervent appeal to everyone that members of the Upper House have to show a conduct which is gladly emulated by others. It was in that perspective, I made an appeal that everyone should go through the report of the Committee of Privileges with respect to Raghav Chadha. I had the occasion to see the young man. There should have been remorse, there should have been reflection. It was a day on which he was held guilty on both the counts by a very detailed report. The suspension had not come to an end. The sentence was limited to this day," he said.
"So here was a case where a Member of this House suffered being held guilty and punished. I would urge everyone to live up to the highest expectations," he added.
The Winter Session will continue till December 22.