Rule 267 becomes a source of contention in the Rajya Sabha

Rule 267 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook, which allows for the suspension of the day’s business in order to debate an issue proposed by a Member, has become a source of contention in the Upper House.

What is Rule 267 of Rajya Sabha?

  • The Rule empowers a Rajya Sabha member to suspend the House’s pre-determined agenda with the Chairman’s approval.
  • “Any member may, with the consent of the Chairman, move that any rule be suspended in its application to a motion related to the business listed before the Council on that day,” according to the Rajya Sabha Rule Book.
  • If the motion is carried, the rule in question shall be suspended for the time being: provided further that this rule shall not apply where specific provision already exists for suspension of a rule under a particular chapter of the Rules”.

Why this rule has become important?

  • Opposition members in the Upper House have consistently demanded a debate on the India-China border situation.
  • In the last eight years, Members have issued hundreds of notices to invoke Rule 267.
  • Following the latest clash between the two sides in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang, members of the Opposition have become more vocal in their demand.
  • Every day, opposition leaders demand that the Chair suspend all other business and allow a discussion on the latest situation along the India-China border under Rule 267.

Is Rule 267 the only way to raise important issues in the House?

  • A member of Parliament can raise issues and request a response from the government in a variety of ways.
  • During Question Hour, an MP may ask a minister any question about any issue, and the minister must respond either orally or in writing.
  • During Zero Hour, an MP may raise the issue. Every day, 15 MPs may raise issues of their choosing during the Zero Hour.
  • Special Mention: It can even be brought up during Special Mention. A Chairman may allow up to seven Special Mentions per day.
  • Debate on the President’s Address: An MP can attempt to bring the issue to the attention of the government during other discussions, such as the debate on the President’s Address.
  • Budget speech: Opposition leaders have also used the Budget debate to launch political attacks on the government.

Why the Opposition is insisting on Rule 267?

  • Because all other business would be put on hold to discuss the issue of national importance, any discussion under Rule 267 takes on great significance in Parliament.
  • No other type of discussion necessitates the suspension of other business.
  • When an issue is admitted under Rule 267, it means it is the most pressing national issue of the day.
  • Furthermore, the government will be required to respond to the matter during the discussions under Rule 267.

Current controversy over Rule 267

  • For a long time, opposition members have claimed that the Rajya Sabha chairman has consistently refused to allow any discussion under Rule 267.
  • While Dhankhar has not permitted any admission under Rule 267, his predecessor, M Venkaiah Naidu, did not permit any admission under Rule 267 during his entire five-year tenure.

When was the Rule used?

  • The rule has been applied numerous times.
  • In the past, the Chair agreed to suspend business to discuss urgent national issues.
  • It was last used in November 2016, when the Upper House invoked Rule 267 to debate demonetization.
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