No Question Hour, special Covid arrangements: The many firsts of 2020 Monsoon session

According to the Rajya Sabha statistical information, this was the second shortest monsoon session with 10 sittings. The session which was scheduled to have 18 sittings and end on October 1, was cut short on Wednesday due to rising cases of Covid-...

PTI
No bill, clause or amendment was put through division of votes in the entire session.
New Delhi: The monsoon session of Parliament that drew to a close on Wednesday will be remembered for many firsts — from the special arrangements made due to Covid-19 and not holding the Question Hour to acrimonious scenes in the Rajya Sabha that led to the suspension of eight MPs and boycott by the opposition.

According to the Rajya Sabha statistical information, this was the second shortest monsoon session with 10 sittings. The session which was scheduled to have 18 sittings and end on October 1, was cut short on Wednesday due to rising cases of Covid-19 among MPs as well as the Parliament staff.

This was also the third shortest House session ever since 1952.


In July 1979 and October 1999, the monsoon sessions were held for six working days. The longest monsoon session ever held was in July-September 1974 which had 40 sittings.

Though Parliament sittings were held for only 10 days (including weekends which is also rare), the government managed to pass 25 bills and introduce six new ones. As many as 11 of these 25 bills were on ordinances. This means over two bills were passed every day. The Opposition has expressed its ire over the bills not being sent to a Standing Committee or a Select Committee of any House for further scrutiny and suggestions from various quarters.

The Centre also did not hold the Question Hour and only written replies were given to unstarred questions. In Rajya Sabha, the Centre gave written replies to 1,567 questions. The Opposition criticised this step and said the government is trying to evade accountability. The Zero Hour, where members raise matters of urgent importance or make special mentions, was curtailed to 30 minutes. The Centre, however, said these two steps were taken due to paucity of time.
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Even as the Opposition complained about these changes, the ruckus in Rajya Sabha on September 20 when the two farm bills were being put to vote saw some unprecedented scenes in the Upper House. While deputy chairperson Harivansh did not put the resolution on sending the bills to a Select Committee to vote, the Opposition broke all norms with members tearing rule books, damaging the Chair’s mike, climbing on the secretariat staff table and manhandling marshals who were called in.

In yet another first, the Opposition moved a no-confidence notice against deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha Harivansh. In his valedictory address, vice president M Venkaiah Naidu described this as an “unprecedented move” and expressed deep anguish. He had earlier dismissed the notice on technical grounds since such a move requires a 14-day notice which was not possible in this short session.

The opposition boycotted the last two days of proceedings in protest against the suspension of eight MPs. The Centre used the absence of the opposition in the House to pass seven bills on Tuesday and another four bills and four labour codes on Wednesday.

No bill, clause or amendment was put through division of votes in the entire session.
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The farm bills also led to Union minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal. The opposition could only discuss the pandemic situation at length. The India-China face-off in eastern Ladakh was also not discussed on the ground that it is a sensitive issue. Defence minister Rajnath Singh made a statement in Lok Sabha but took a few questions in the Upper House on the issue.

The session saw special arrangements to maintain social distancing norms. For the first time since Independence, the members of each House sat in visitors galleries and the other House chamber.
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