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Up to House, not Chair to take up private member’s bill on amending Preamble: RS Dy chairman

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New Delhi:  Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh on Friday said it was up to the House to take up a private member’s bill on amending the Preamble of the Constitution and the Chair cannot give a ruling on the issue.

The remarks came as a response to a bill moved by BJP MP K J Alphons last year, which was strongly opposed by Opposition members, including RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha.

Harivansh had reserved a ruling on the issue on December 3, 2021 after Opposition members had stalled the introduction of the bill.

The deputy chairman had initially allowed the introduction of the bill, but later reserved his decision on it after a consensus was reached following protests by Jha and MDMK’s Vaiko.

Elaborating on the bill on Friday, Harivansh noted that it was up to the House to decide how it would like to deal with the motion.

“During the private members’ legislative business day of the last session on December 3, 2021, Manoj Kumar Jha, a member, had opposed without giving any prior notice the motion moved by K J Alphons, a member, for leave to introduce a Private Members’ Bill namely the “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill,2021 (Amendment of Preamble)”. He had argued inter alia that Preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill may not be allowed for introduction,” Harivansh stated.

Jha had also referred to Rule 62 (2) of the Rules of Procedure and contended that such a bill, which did not have the previous sanction or recommendation of the President, cannot be introduced in the House, he said.

“It was clarified on that day by me that Rule 67 of the Rules of Procedure states that ‘if a motion for leave to introduce a bill is opposed, the chairman, after permitting, if he thinks fit, a brief explanatory statement from the member who moves and from the member who opposes the motion, may, without further debate, put the question for the decision of the House’,” he stated.

It was also informed that a decision on the motion for leave to introduce a bill had to be taken by the House and not by the Chair, he noted.

“However, on a request made by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and after taking the sense of the House, the introduction of the Bill was deferred,” he added.

The Preamble is part of the Constitution. According to article 368 of the Constitution, Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution and a Bill for the purpose can be introduced in either House of Parliament, he stated.

“As already clarified by me on that day, that is, December 3, 2021, if the introduction of a bill is opposed on the ground of legislative competence of the Council, the Council decides the same and not the Chair,” the deputy chairman said.

There are a number of rulings given by the Chair in the Upper House on this issue taking the same stand in the past, he noted.

“As regards the objection raised by Manoj Kumar Jha under Rule 62(2) that Bill does not have the previous sanction or recommendation of the President, I may clarify here that there is no such requirement for introduction of the Bill under reference,” Singh said.

Therefore, there is no question of any doubt on the admissibility of the Bill for introduction seeking to amend the Preamble to the Constitution, he added.

“Be that, the bill has been listed in today’s agenda for introduction. The House may decide about the manner of disposal of the motion when the motion for introduction of the proposed Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Amendment of the Preamble) is moved by K J Alphons,” Singh stated.

Congress leader Anand Sharma noted that the House also does not have any mandate or is competent to amend the Preamble of the Constitution.

“It is very clear that what is enshrined there, it is not the question of tinkering with the basic structure. There are umpteen judgments of the Supreme Court also on that. Various governments, if they have come up with any constitutional amendment, has been challenged and questioned they have been cast aside by the Supreme court,” he added.

Sharma further said,”Here we are talking about the very Preamble of the Constitution. I would say or rather urge the member concerned that in the larger interest of the country, where questions are being raised about the integrity of our commitment to the Indian Constitution and its Preamble, this should not be entertained.”

Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (AITC) and Communist Party of India leader Binoy Viswam also opposed the bill.

Amar Patnaik (BJD) noted that two changes were brought into the Preamble of the Constitution by the 42nd amendment.

“Two words — socialist and secular — were inserted into the Preamble. So it is not that the Preamble cannot be changed,” he stated.

The deputy chairman stated that he had already cleared the position of the Chair regarding the issue citing various rulings in the past.

“The House can decide or the court can decide; not the Chair,” he stated.

During the Private Members’ Legislative Business, several members,  including Amar Patnaik, Manoj Kumar Jha, Priyanka Chaturvedi,  Shanta Chhetri and Fauzia Khan, introduced their respective bills.

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