Farm Bills: Row is over TV footage

A day after the Akali Dal walked out of the NDA, snapping the umbilical cord that tied it to the BJP, President Ram Nath Kovind put his initials on all the three controversial farm bills.

The opposition had requested the President not to sign the bills and send them back to Parliament for reconsideration. The opposition has alleged that the bills were pushed through voice vote in violation of rules. The government, it has claimed, lacked the numbers, which would have become clear if a physical voting was held. They have also accused Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, who was presiding over the proceedings, of colluding with the government.

Harivansh Singh and the government, however, have contended the opposition demands for physical voting were negated as the members were not in their seats while making the demand. Television footage of the Rajya Sabha proceedings of September 20 accessed by a TV channel shows that at least two of the three MPs -- KK Ragesh and Trichy Siva -- who moved the motion to send the controversial bills to a select committee, were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes.

On Sunday evening, reacting to the footage, Harivansh Singh issued a clarification which said, "I hold a constitutional position and, therefore, cannot issue a formal rebuttal. I am bringing these facts to your notice and leave it to your conscience or your judgement." "The amendment moved by CPM MP KK Ragesh was negated by voice vote at 1.07 pm on September 20 as he was in the Well of the house and not in his seat in the gallery at that point of time," Singh said. Referring to videos of the House proceedings, the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha said his claims "can be verified from the video as after calling him (Ragesh) to move his resolution and amendment, I looked at the gallery, but he was not there".

Even as the three bills became laws on Sunday and the Modi dispensation hailed them as ‘historic’ reforms, Opposition-ruled States like Maharashtra were mulling their legal options. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal termed the presidential assent as “sad, disappointing and extremely unfortunate". In a statement here, Badal said it was a “dark day for the country” as the President refused to act as the nation's conscience”. Regionalism and narrow minded parochialism is likely to come into play with the Akali Dal also miffed over the non-inclusion of Punjabi as official language in Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill. The Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020, provides for inclusion of Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi in the list of official languages, in addition to Urdu and English.

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