Rule 267 of the Rajya Sabha manual on procedures has found prominence during the Parliament’s Monsoon session of 2021 as the Opposition seeks to corner the government on a host of issues, including the Pegasus spyware affair and the contentious farm laws. Allowing for the suspension of the day’s listed business to allow the Upper House to take up any urgent matter, it is, however, a rarely invoked provision. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Rule 267?
A part of the Rajya Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Rule 267 says that any member can seek that
“any rule may be suspended… related to the business listed before the Council of that day".
Vice President venkaiah Naidu, who is also the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, said he has been “receiving 10 to 15 notices under Rule 267 every day on different issues". However, none of these notices have been admitted even as Opposition members have kept giving notices under Rule 267 to discuss everything from the Pegasus spyware controversy and the Assam-Mizoram border dispute.
What Does It Mean?
It is the discretion of the Chairman to decide whether to allow a motion under Rule 267 as it states that “the consent of the Chairman" is required for a member to bring such a motion.
There are elaborate rules for the tabling of Bills and the taking up of business in bothe Houses of Parliament. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat says that “a list of business for the day shall be prepared by the Secretary-General (and) “save as otherwise provided in these rules, no business not included in the list of business for the day shall be transacted at any meeting without the leave of the Chairman".
Both Houses of Parliament have been rocked by disturbance and adjournments in the 2021 Monsoon session and the ordinary business of Parliament — which involves, among other things, the introduction and passage of Bills — is seen to have suffered over the Opposition’s demands for discussion on emerging issues for which it believes the Union government is answerable.
Rule 267 is an extraordinary mechanism that allows the Opposition to demand that normal business of Rajya Sabha be set aside so that the House can take up more pressing matters. Of course, there is the Question Hour and also Half-an-Hour discussions during which members may take up questions, but while these are part of the ordinary business, a motion under Rule 267 indicates that a matter was serious enough for the House to suspend its normal business to take it up. That can be seen as not reflecting too well on the Union government and, indeed, discussion under Rule 267 have rarely been allowed.
How Many Times Have Rule 267 Notices Been Allowed?
Protesting members of the Opposition have said that no notice under Rule 267 has been entertained in more than five years in Rajya Sabha with Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray reportedly pointing out in the House that “since November 2016… on no occasion has Rule 267 been allowed in the past five years". He told the Rajya Sabha Chairman that, “I strongly believe that the rule still exists in the rules book, and kindly allow us to discuss under Rule 267".
Rule 267 had also been in the news during last year’s Budget session. After multiple notices were rejected by the Rajya Sabha chair, TMC MP Derek O’Brien had tweeted, “Rule 267 in Rajya Sabha Parliament gives (Opposition) MPs an opportunity to give a written Notice to suspend regular business and seek a discussion on a burning issue. But Notices under Rule 267 never being accepted. At this rate, might as well suspend the rule that seeks to suspend business."
The Telegraph said that the last time Rajya Sabha had held a discussion under Rule 267 was in November 2016 in a matter related to demonetisation, or the banning of high denomination notes.
What Happens In Lok Sabha?
Rule 388 in the Lok Sabha manual provides for a motion for suspension of rules with the consent of the Speaker, however, to register its censure of the Union government, Lok Sabha MPs normally take recourse to the adjournment motion, which is not available to members of Rajya Sabha.
An adjournment motion, whose “primary object… is to draw the attention of the House to a recent matter of urgent public importance having serious consequences", can only be taken up in the Lok Sabha as the government is answerable only to the Lower House of Parliament. It can be taken up “by interrupting the normal business of the House" if it is deemed that following the normal course of seeking a discussion through a “motion or a resolution with proper notice will be too late".
PRS Legislative Research says, “the adoption of an adjournment motion is seen as a censure of the government, although there is no compulsion on the government to resign", pointing out that in the 16th Lok Sabha, only one adjournment motion was admitted.
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