Suspension of Assembly rules: Speaker subtly tells LDF, 'Don't repeat it'

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Thiruvananthapuram: Speaker A N Shamseer on Tuesday gave a seemingly balanced ruling on the Opposition charge that the LDF government had arbitrarily suspended Assembly Rules of Procedure on June 10 and passed two bills without discussion.

Though apparently sensitive to the arguments of both sides, the Speaker in his ruling repeatedly stressed the importance of sending bills to the consideration of Assembly subjects and select committees. In a subtle way, the Speaker warned the LDF government against a repeat of what happened on June 10.

The two bills on the delimitation of local body wards that were passed within five minutes on June 10 were originally supposed to be sent to the Subject Committee. Even the official agenda that was put up on the Assembly website had said so. But the LDF government, without consulting the opposition as is the norm, suspended rules and passed them without a word spoken.

The Speaker’s ruling on Tuesday betrayed a certain apprehension. “Sending all legislations to the concerned subject or select committees, and these bills returning to the House only after detailed discussions in the committees is one of the biggest procedural strengths of Kerala Assembly,” the Speaker ruled on Tuesday. “The Chair understands that such a rigorous process is not to be found in other legislative assemblies or even Parliament,” he said.

It was as if the Speaker could not stress this aspect enough. In the brief ruling, he again came back to it. “Like the Assembly Rules of Procedure, the Chair too is of the opinion that the tradition of getting bills passed only after the consideration of the subject committee is the ideal way to make laws,” he said.

Still, as if to soften the blow, the Speaker said he also had to take into account the compulsions that made the government act in this manner.

Earlier, responding to opposition leader V D Satheesan’s charge there was “unnecessary haste”, minister for local bodies M B Rajesh told the House that the government had to act quickly because the arduous and long-winding delimitation process had to be completed by October 2025 for the local body elections to be held towards the end of 2025 and conditions created for new local bodies to assume power by December 21, 2025. “There was haste but it was not unnecessary,” the minister. He said the delimitation of wards was a massive exercise that would take at least a year to complete. Satheesan asked what prevented the government from introducing the bills in the previous session if it felt that time was running out.

Rajesh’s other argument was that the same bills were introduced in the House in 2020 and had passed through all the stages of discussions. “These bills had lapsed on account of COVID. These new bills that were passed yesterday are an exact replica of the 2020 bills. Not a word or coma or full stop have been changed,” Rajesh said. Satheesan’s counter was that this Assembly had a new set of members who would want to record their opinions on the two bills.

It was Rajesh’s third argument that virtually silenced the opposition leader. “Though the UDF members were staging a protest in the House, I saw the Opposition leader listening intently, the microphone in his ears. If only he had stood up and objected (when a motion was moved to suspend rules), we would not have gone ahead,” the minister said. Satheesan put up a weak defence. Instead of admitting that he had failed to notice the government gameplan, the Opposition Leader said that the speaker would not have offered him the mike when the Opposition members were agitating in the well of the House. He was in other words saying that he knew what was happening but didn’t try to do anything because the Speaker would not have allowed him to speak out anyway.

Former opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also made a significant point. He said there were 15 instances when Assembly rules were suspended to pass bills. “But in all these cases, the opposition was consulted and their consent secured,” Chennithala said.

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