Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
It would be wrong on part of the Orissa Governor if the transacted businesses of the last two days of the Assembly are not quashed and the Speaker, whom he has summoned, is not asked to retrieve those two days for placing before the Legislature afresh the Bills declared to have been passed behind the Opposition.
It is sad that it could not be appreciated that democracy is democracy only because of Opposition. Any Bill could be passed by the Government because the Government stands on majority in the Assembly. But any such Bill passed without being examined under wisdom of the Opposition would make a farce of the said Bill and shall have no credibility in a democracy.
It was within the competency of the Speaker to halt proceeding of the House till wisdom of Opposition was available to the official Bills. But it did not happen. Even Rules of Business was given no respect in adoption of mass affecting bills.
The Congress legislative wing has acted most correctly by apprising the Governor of the sad developments in legislative business of the Assembly.
It would be wrong on his part if the Bills declared adopted behind back of the Opposition are not recalled and placed in the pre-debate position. The details of shenanigans involving the bill prohibiting land grabbing should also be obtained by the Governor and acted upon in interest of democracy vis-à-vis what the Speaker says.
We deem it proper to publish the Congress Memorandum to the Governor.
The Odisha Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Odisha Legislative Assembly to replace the ordinance which was promulgated on 28th May, 2015. The bill was taken for consideration and the whole House cutting across the party line objected to certain provisions of the Bill. It was unanimous view of the House that landless and homesteadless persons occupying urban land should not be criminally prosecuted and they should not be forcibly evicted without making alternative provision for them. The House was also unanimous that corporate house, businessmen, apartment owners, haves of the society and occupying government land with the motive of making money or accumulating property should be firmly dealt with. The bill was called a draconian law so far as poor and downtrodden of the society are concerned. The views of the Supreme Court on the issue was also placed before the House where the Apex Court has held that a poor man coming to the urban area in search of a living and occupying a Government land as he has not able to afford a rented house amounts to his livelihood and right to livelihood is a fundamental right which shall not be violated.
While replying to the consideration of the bill the Hon’ble Speaker firmly said that the poor, landless, homesteadless persons would be protected and all amendments to that effect would be accepted. He also admitted that there are mistakes in the bill which needs to be corrected. In view of his assurance, a motion for referring to the bill to Select Committee was withdrawn. The House was then adjourned for clause by clause discussion to specific date. Because major amendments to the Bill was required, the Hon’ble Minister took time to study the same and examine various amendments. It was also decided in the House to call all party meeting in the Chamber of the Hon’ble Speaker to find out a correct formula so that passing of the Bills may be unanimous.
While taking all clause by clause discussion, again these matters were discussed in the House. Amendments moved both by the Opposition and the Ruling Party to clause2(c) of the Bill was accepted by the Minister with certain changes. But finally draft of the amendment suggested by the members and accepted by the Minister was read out several times in the House and thereafter it was adopted in the House and the Hon’ble Speaker made a declaration to that effect. The House was then adjourned for 27th August, 2015. Then the bill was taken for further discussion. The Hon’ble Minister moved a motion to withdraw the amendment adopted by the House amending clause 2(c) of the Bill. No writing motion was tabled in the House nor was it circulated among the members. The Opposition therefore demanded that this being an unprecedented subject taken by the Minister, the motion should be circulated and the member should know which portion of the bill for amendment to the bill was proposed to be withdrawn. But, neither a copy was supplied nor it was circulated. The Hon’ble Speaker insisted that, the motion should be taken up and in a hurry the motion was adopted. This was strongly protested by the opposition on the ground that the Rules of Business do not permit such thing and in fact, it is an unprecedented subject. It was also contended that the move of the Minister and the procedure adopted by the Hon’ble Speaker was unconstitutional, illegal and contrary to the rules.
Even though, it was vehemently opposed the motion of the Minister was adopted while the House was not in order. The Leader of Opposition standing on the seat wanted to move his other amendments to the bill. But an opportunity was not given to him even to move the amendments. By the time, other amendments were called, there was a pandemonium in the House and nothing could be heard. Even though, the Leader of Opposition was ready to move his amendment, he was not allowed to do so. The result was that he had to go to the well of the House and sit on dharana along with other opposition members. The Hon’ble Speaker had earlier ruled that if the Leader of Opposition is on the well, sitting on dharana, proceedings of the House should not be carried. But, violating his own ruling, the Hon’ble Speaker rushed through the bill in absence of the opposition and practically without any discussion, the bill was adopted. The opposition had no option, but to protest and walk out of the House. Passing of the bill, therefore, is unconstitutional, illegal, contrary to the procedure prescribed in the Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Odisha Legislative Assembly and highly democratic. No important bill should be passed in absence of the opposition. It may not be out of place to mention that, the Leader of the Opposition repeatedly requested the Hon’ble Speaker to adjourn the House for some time, call an all party meeting and find out a solution. This did not impress the Hon’ble Speaker and he decided to transact the business of the House while the House was not in order and in absence of the opposition. Not only, this bill, but several other important bills such as; Odisha Police Bill, 2015, Odisha Municipal Amendment Act, 2015, and the Odisha Municipal Corporation Amendment Act, 2015 were also passed hurriedly in absence of the opposition. Such a fact is bad for democracy.
In earlier occasion also, the Hon’ble Speaker refused to give the opposition a chance to discuss about the indictment of the Chief Minister by the High Court in a case relating to the Ex-D.G.of Police. In all party meeting it was decided that the adjournment motion could be moved on law and order position of the State and in that motion those matters can be discussed. Accordingly, the opposition moved an adjournment motion relating deteriorating law and order situation in the State. Though the members were allowed to participate to discuss into about the observation of the High Court, in the case of Prakash Mishra and the Supreme Court judgment arising out of that case, at the end of the day, the Hon’ble Speaker all of a sudden expunged that part of the discussion though the wording of the ruling of the Hon’ble Speaker was not very specific, it was not known to anybody, to which portion of the proceeding was expunged. In view of that, the members did not carry anything about that discussion and the result was people could not know what discussion actually took place inside the House and what the Government stand was.
This again was contrary to rule-222 of the Rules of Business and it was protested in the next date. The Leader of Opposition requested the Hon’ble Speaker to provide him a copy of his speech recorded during the adjournment motion showing which portion of his speech was deleted and in spite of the assurance of the Speaker, it is not yet been given. This only shows that the Hon’ble Speaker did not know which part of the speech was expunged.
The adjournment motion was discussed relating to the teachers strike on 27th August, 2015. Half an hour before the motion, the adjournment motion was taken up. The visitors’ gallery meant for the media and all the visitors to the gallery were asked to go away. When the Leader of the Opposition asked the Hon’ble Speaker as to why the visitors were being driven out there was no answer.
The aforesaid conduct of the Hon’ble Speaker and the role of the Government clearly shows that an undeclared emergency has been in force in the State and all the rights being the fundamental rights or statutory rights or rights agreed by convention all the members of the House have been withdrawn and the business of the House is being transacted undemocratically and unconstitutionally at the whim of the leader of the House and the Hon’ble Speaker. This is bad for democracy and one can say democracy is dead in the State. It also appears that pressure has been put on the media by giving threat or otherwise to censure the proceedings of the House and thereby preventing the media from carrying the message of the House to the people. Unprecedented situation therefore has arisen in the House. Anything talked against the Government or which impress the Government are expunged. Anything which will expose the Government and impress it is not allowed to be discussed and if by chance something discussed and expunged it is not allowed to be circulated in the press.
This being an extraordinary situation intervention of Your Excellency is urgently required. Your Excellency has to protect the law and the constitution and protect the members of the House.
Please intervene and take appropriate action.