The last session of the current Lok Sabha – the 16th – ended today (Wednesday, Feb 13) with the Budget session drawing to a close.
Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die and, unless something unusual happens, would reconvene when the next Lok Sabha is constituted after the general election are over in May.
With the end of the current Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adjourning at 12.50 pm without passing the two controversial Bills on triple talaq and the amendments to Citizenship Act, the two legislations are set to lapse with the end of the present Lok Sabha on June 3.
Bills introduced in the Rajya Sabha and pending there do not lapse with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. Bills passed by the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha lapse.
The Citizenship bill aims to grant citizenship to six religious minorities — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014, after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
While the BJP president Amit Shah said it was to complete the unfinished agenda of Partition, the Bill was met with strong protests in north-eastern states, including Assam where it was called a direct violation of the Assam accord. The legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session on January 8 and has been awaiting the Rajya Sabha’s nod.
Like his close associate Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, announced that the bill is an “atonement of the wrong that was done during India’s Partition. India will safeguard all who had been victims of the Partition.”
On Saturday, addressing a rally in Assam, Modi said the citizenship bill won’t harm the interests of the people of the region but will provide succour to those who have “embraced the idea and ethos of Mother India.”
Student organisations, political parties and socio-cultural bodies have been protesting on the grounds that it seeks to grant nationality to non-Muslims who have come into India up to December 31, 2014, thereby increasing the deadline from 1971 as per the Assam Accord.
Also, according to the Assam Accord, all illegal immigrants who have come after 1971, irrespective of their religion, have to be deported and this bill violates that.
Two BJP chief ministers of the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh’s Pema Khandu and Manipur’s N Biren Dingh – have also voiced their opposition to the contentious Bill.
The government had tried to make one last effort to push through the Bill by listing it on February 12 in spite of its assurance to Opposition that the legislation will not be moved.
In the case of the triple talaq bill, the numbers were clearly stacked against the government. The Opposition questioned the legislation for talaq or divorce as a criminal offence even when the marriage is a civil arrangement.
Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2019, divorcing through instant triple talaq will be illegal, void and would attract a jail term of three years for the husband.
The opposition had been opposing provisions of the two bills in Rajya Sabha where the government lacks numbers.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die after it passed some Bills including Interim Budget and Finance Bill for 2019-20 without debate. In his customary address at the close of the Budget session, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu lamented that precious time of the House was lost in protests, stalling proceedings.
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report with details of the Rafale deal was tabled in the Upper House, but was not taken up for discussion as the House was adjourned sine die.
The Lok Sabha, meanwhile, passed the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill and the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment).
Giving his valedictory speech in the Lok Sabha before the general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that several sessions of the 16th Lok Sabha had good productivity. He said India has long suffered due to fractured mandates but now it is taken seriously because of the majority government. PM Modi also took a veiled dig at Congress president Rahul Gandhi and said, “…there were no earthquakes in the last five years.” He was referring to Gandhi’s statement last year that “there would be an earthquake if he were allowed to speak.”