Suspension of assembly rules: Speaker subtly tells LDF, ‘Don’t repeat it’ | Kerala Assembly

Thiruvananthapuram: Speaker AN Shamseer on Tuesday delivered a seemingly balanced verdict on the opposition’s allegation that the LDF government arbitrarily suspended the rules of procedure of the National Assembly on June 10 and passed two bills without discussion.

While the Speaker was obviously receptive to the arguments of both sides, his verdict repeatedly stressed the importance of referring bills to the Assembly and select committees. In a subtle way, the Speaker warned the LDF government against a repeat of the events of June 10.

The two constituency delimitation bills, which were passed within five minutes on June 10, were originally supposed to be referred to the technical committee. Even the official agenda on the assembly website had provided for this. But the LDF government suspended the bills and passed them without a word, without consulting the opposition, as is customary.

The Speaker’s decision on Tuesday revealed some concern. “One of the greatest procedural strengths of the Kerala Assembly is that it sends all bills to the relevant technical or special committees and returns them to Parliament only after detailed discussions in the committees,” the Speaker decided on Tuesday. “The Chairman understands that such a rigorous procedure is not found in other legislative assemblies or even in Parliament,” he said.

It was as if the Speaker could not stress this aspect enough. He returned to it again in his brief statement. “Like the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, the Chairman believes that the tradition of adopting bills only after they have been examined by the relevant committee is the ideal way of legislating,” he said.

However, to soften the blow, the spokesman said he also had to take into account the constraints that led the government to take this action.

Earlier, responding to opposition leader VD Satheesan’s charge of “unnecessary haste”, local bodies minister MB Rajesh had told Parliament that the government needed to act quickly as the arduous and lengthy delimitation process needed to be completed by October 2025 so that local body elections could be held towards the end of 2025 and the stage could be set for new local bodies to assume power by December 21, 2025. “There was haste but it was not unnecessary,” the minister said. He said the delimitation of districts was a massive exercise that would take at least a year. Satheesan asked what had stopped 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 discussion. “These bills had lapsed due to COVID. These new bills passed yesterday are an exact copy of the 2020 bills. Not a word, not a comma, not a dot has been changed,” Rajesh said. Satheesan’s counter argument was that this assembly has a new set of members who want to voice their opinion on the two bills.

It was Rajesh’s third argument that virtually silenced the opposition leader. “Though the UDF members were protesting in Parliament, I saw the opposition leader listening intently with the microphone in his ears. If he had just stood up and objected (when a motion to suspend the rules was moved), we would not have continued,” the minister said. Satheesan offered a weak defence. Instead of admitting that he was unaware of the government’s plan, the opposition leader said that the Speaker did not offer him the microphone when the opposition members were agitating in the Parliament hall. In other words, he said that he knew what was going on but did not try to take any action because the Speaker would not have allowed him to speak anyway.

Former opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also made an important point. He said there were 15 cases where the assembly rules were overridden to pass legislation. “But in all these cases, the opposition was consulted and its consent was taken,” Chennithala said.