Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu today chided members for the thin attendance in the House when a crucial legislation to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes was passed last evening. At the start of the day's proceedings, Naidu observed that 156 members were present when the Rajya Sabha passed the constitution amendment bill. "We just scraped through," he lamented. Rajya Sabha has a total strength of 245. Majority of the members, that is more than half, are required to be present when an amendment to the Constitution is passed. It can be passed only when two-thirds of the members are present and vote in favour.
"Yesterday, we passed a historic bill unanimously," he said and went on to make his point. "What is the total presence in the House? 156. What is the strength of the House? On such a constitution amendment where there is unanimity, where there is consensus, and we just scrape through," he said citing the rule on passage of a constitution amendment bill. The bill could have fallen if the numbers were a little less. "We were exactly a little above the mark, that's all. Otherwise, you can't get it approved also," he said.
He said on such matters, political parties should issue whips to their members to ensure their presence. "On such matters, parties also through their whips (leaders) must see to it that members are cautioned, or guided or directed to be there on time and also vote in such things," he said. Naidu said it would be a "sad commentary" on the functioning of the Rajya Sabha if someone was to take note of the attendance. "Whenever there is an important legislation in Parliament, better be present in the House in large numbers, so that a message goes to the society," he said.
He also asked members to be punctual and assemble in the House before the start of the day's proceedings at 1100 hours. "I have been seeing that members are coming after the Chairman comes and the House assembles," he said. "The practice is that everybody should be there in the seat before the Chairman comes and then we must start. That will send a good message." Observing that arriving five minutes early would not make much of a difference, he said when members come in late, they also disturb others to reach their allocated seat.
"All these things can be avoided. This will enhance the prestige and decorum of the House," he said. Naidu also asked ministers to give advance notice of leave of absence when papers listed against their name are to be taken up. "I will not allow any statement made by any minister on behalf of other ministers unless I get notice beforehand and then I permit it," he said. While there has been some improvement, but still some people at the last moment approach the Table office and the Secretariat for allowing someone else to lay the papers on their behalf. "This is not permissible. This is the last day. I am not going to allow it at all. Please take note of it," he added.