In a momentous 4-day special session of Bharat’s parliament spanning from September 18 to 21, 2023, the nation embarked on a journey of reflection and celebration, marking 75 years of its parliamentary history. In this blog post, we will delve into the history of special parliamentary sessions in Bharat, with a particular emphasis on examining the proceedings of the most recent session.
What is a Special Session of Parliament?
In practice, Bharat’s Parliament traditionally convenes 3 times a year for the Budget, Monsoon, and Winter sessions, adhering to established conventions.
The term ‘special session’ lacks explicit mention in the Constitution or the rulebooks governing the two Houses of Parliament in Bharat. Consequently, there are no established guidelines dictating the circumstances or timing for convening such sessions. Notably, Article 352, which addresses the proclamation of a state of Emergency, refers to a ‘special sitting’ of the House. This provision was introduced via the 44th Amendment Act in 1978, primarily to incorporate safeguards against potential misuse of Emergency powers.
Bharat’s Parliament has convened a range of special sessions throughout its history to address significant events and crucial matters. Notable sessions include the historic midnight session of the Constituent Assembly in 1947, signifying Bharat’s independence and the adoption of its Constitution. Special sessions were also called during national emergencies, including those during the Bharat-China war in 1962 and the Bharat-Pakistan wars in 1965 and 1971. Additionally, special sessions were called to celebrate milestones like the Golden Jubilee of Independence in 1997, the 60th and 70th anniversaries of independence in 2007 and 2017, respectively, and the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement in 2017. Moreover, a special session was convened for the presentation of the Union Budget and deliberations on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in 2017.
What happened during this Session?
September 18, the inaugural day witnessed a spirited discussion on ‘Parliamentary Journey of 75 Years Starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements, Experiences, Memories, and Learnings.’ 35 members of parliament participated in it. During this discussion, the government chose to spotlight the remarkable achievements of Bharat’s robust democracy. Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Bharat expressed, “Our journey of 75 years has generated the best of many democratic conventions and practices. We may move to a new building, but the old building will always continue to inspire the coming generations. This is an important chapter in the golden journey of Bharat’s democracy. The light of the first dawn of ‘Amrit Kaal,’ is filling a new faith in the nation, new confidence, new enthusiasm, new resolutions, and new strength of the nation.” His words reverberated with the profound legacy of Bharat’s democratic evolution.
In a harmonious counterpoint, the opposition highlighted Bharat’s accomplishments since gaining independence. Shri Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, the Leader of Opposition eloquently stated, “India as a nation or as a civilization is an unending celebration of pluralism. Freedom of expression is perhaps the most fundamental parliamentary right of a Member of Parliament. Old is always gold. We will go to the new House, but will remember the old House also.” This sentiment encapsulated the reverence for Bharat’s rich diversity and the enduring importance of its legislative institutions.
In the Rajya Sabha, Shri Piyush Goyal, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, initiated a discussion on the ‘Parliamentary Journey of 75 Years Starting from Samvidhan Sabha.’ This engaging discussion persisted for approximately 6 hours during which 34 members shared their perspectives and insights on the subject.
On Day 2, the stage shifted to the grandeur of the new parliament where history was etched anew. The Speaker made a momentous announcement declaring the old building as “Samvidhan Sadan,” thereby paying homage to the historic significance of the venerable chambers where the nation’s destiny had been shaped for decades. This transition to the new parliamentary building saw the government introduce its first bill in this iconic venue. “The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023,” was presented by Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal.
Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, extended warm wishes to the members on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. He also acknowledged that the Jain society was celebrating Samvatsari day, marking the conclusion of Paryushan, and he expressed his well-wishes by saying, “Michhami Dukkadam.” In a humble and reconciliatory gesture, he added, “If I have hurt someone’s sentiments or hurt anyone through my words, actions, knowingly or unknowingly or in any way, I apologize to all of you.”
Day 3 marked the culmination of intense debate, as the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, was put to a vote. This critical bill underwent a thorough discussion that lasted an impressive 9 hours and 57 minutes, with active participation from 60 dedicated members. Their diverse viewpoints and thoughtful insights enriched the debate. Finally, Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal provided a comprehensive response, encapsulating the essence of the democratic process in action.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Chairman delivered his remarks regarding the discussion on Bharat’s space programs. He said, “It gives me immense pride that we are going to discuss the achievements of Bharat in space exploration to commemorate the glorious accomplishments of our space scientists. From the inception of our space program, we have consistently pushed the boundaries of space exploration and our achievements in this domain have catapulted the nation onto the global center stage. From Chandrayaan missions to the Moon, Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan), and Aditya L1’s solar exploration, Bharat has shown that the sky is not the limit; it’s just the beginning.”
Day 4 commenced with a momentous recognition ceremony led by Shri Narendra Modi to honor all members for successfully passing the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023. Following this, an extensive 12-hour and 18-minute discussion unfolded, focusing on the ‘Success of Chandrayaan-3 Mission and other notable accomplishments in our Nation’s Space Sector,’ featuring active participation from 86 members. Speaker Shri Om Birla presented a resolution declaring “The Space Programme as a source of national pride,” which garnered unanimous approval. Additionally, a resolution concerning Section 8 of the Customs Tariff Act of 1975, was introduced and subsequently adopted. The day’s proceedings culminated with a rendition of the National Song. With no additional business to transact, the Speaker adjourned the House sine die.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, which had already been passed by the Lok Sabha, was introduced for consideration by Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Law and Justice. A total of 70 members actively participated in the discussion on the bill. Following the discussion, Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal responded, and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi also shared his insights on the matter. A division vote was then conducted, resulting in an overwhelming 215 votes in favor and none against, leading to the adoption of the motion for consideration of the Bill. Subsequently, the House proceeded to adopt the various clauses (1 to 6) that comprised the bill. Finally, Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal moved the motion for passing the Bill, which was successfully passed by the House.
In addition to this, a statutory resolution concerning Section 8 of the Customs Tariff Act, 1975 was presented by Shri Bhagwat Karad, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, and it too found unanimous approval. With no further business on the agenda, the Chairman declared the House adjourned sine die.
What were some of the downturns of this Session?
The special session that occurred from September 18 to 21 had its share of shortcomings. Notably, it did not include the Question Hour or private members’ business. Moreover, the session consisted of five sittings, and members were informed of the proceedings through a provisional calendar. This lack of transparency drew criticism from many opposition MPs, as prior knowledge of the business is considered crucial for members to adequately prepare for bill consideration. Furthermore, during the discussion on the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s success, BJP MP Ramesh Biduri used inappropriate and offensive language towards BSP MP Shri Danish Ali. Surprisingly, Shri Biduri faced no suspension or consequences for his behavior, raising questions about disciplinary measures in the session.
In this 4-day parliamentary extravaganza, Bharat celebrated its legislative history, affirmed its commitment to democratic ideals, and looked forward to the promising chapters yet to be written in its vibrant democratic story. While this session had its downturn, it was a momentous occasion, a reminder of the nation’s enduring strength, and a testament to the unity in diversity that defines Bharat.