Are Early Adjournments Of The Rajya Sabha More Common Under The BJP?
Early adjournments of Rajya Sabha sessions occurred under both, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance governments, shows analysis of official data
Mumbai: Trinamool Congress (TMC) Member of Parliament (MP) Derek O'Brien on December 22, 2022, claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has cut short a Rajya Sabha session for the eighth consecutive time.
"PM Narendra Modi and his team continue to mock Parliament. For the 8th time in a row, BJP cuts short a Parliament session. They announce dates and then run away. Winter Session over a week ahead of time," tweeted the MP from West Bengal. The MP also quoted a table containing a list of adjournments of the last 8 sessions in the Rajya Sabha.
To verify his claim, FactChecker analysed official records from the Rajya Sabha and found the MP's claim to be true. However, our analysis also revealed that early adjournments have been happening since 2004, under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Under the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the winter (258th) session of 2022, which commenced on December 7, 2022, was originally scheduled to have 17 sittings till December 29, 2022. However, it was adjourned sine die (which means the session was adjourned indefinitely) on December 23, 2022 with a total of 13 sittings occurring over the course of 17 days.
"It is the government alone who decides the duration of each session," said Maansi Verma, founder of Maadhyam, a civic engagement initiative. The winter session of the Rajya Sabha usually starts in the third or fourth week of November, however this year it was delayed due to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. The winter session ended early this year because there were not many important bills that the government wanted to pass, and the session coincided with the Christmas and New Year holidays, explained Verma.
The Monsoon (257th) Session of 2022, which was scheduled to have 18 sittings, ended early on August 8, 2022, four days and two sittings ahead of schedule. The Budget (256th) session of 2022 and the Winter (255th) session of 2021 were also adjourned a day earlier than scheduled. The Monsoon (254th) session of 2021 was originally planned till August 13, 2021, with 19 sittings scheduled. However, it ended two days early, with a total of 17 sittings held over a period of 24 days.
The 251st session in January 2020 (which ended in March 2020, when the national lockdown due to Covid-19 was imposed), 252nd session in September 2020 and the 253rd session in January 2021 were all adjourned early due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
"The Monsoon (252nd) session in 2020 only lasted for 10 days and this session was kept only in order to ensure that the government does not breach the six month timeline given in the Constitution, where there should not have been a gap of more than six months between one session and the next," said Verma. The Budget (253rd) session of 2021 also ended early because it overlapped with the West Bengal assembly elections, Verma added.
During the Budget sessions of (234th)2015 and (238th)2016, the Rajya Sabha met for less than 20 days and ended more than a month ahead of schedule, without conducting the second part of the session. However, the second part of both these sessions, were later convened as separate sessions in April 2015 and April 2016 respectively.
Since 2014, there have been a total of 10 early adjournments under the NDA government. While 17 sessions took place as planned, the Rajya Sabha was only extended once, which was during the Monsoon (249th) session of 2019. This session was extended by eight working days, ending on August 7, 2019 instead of the scheduled date of July 26, 2019.
Early Adjournments Not Limited to the NDA Government
Under the NDA government, from May 2014 to December 2022, of a total of 28 sessions, 10 or 36% were adjourned early. If the sessions adjourned early because of the pandemic are not considered, 25% of the sessions were adjourned early.
During the UPA government, a total of 30 sessions were held. Of these, six sessions (20%) were adjourned early, with three of these early adjournments happening during the budget sessions and three during the winter sessions. The Monsoon (202nd) session of 2004 was the earliest session to be adjourned among the six early adjourned sessions, ending six working days before its scheduled adjournment date. The monsoon (211th) session of 2007 also ended four working days prior to the scheduled adjournment, on September 10, 2007 instead of September 14, 2007.
"Once the government decides that it no longer has any important agenda to push in a particular session, it can unilaterally decide to end the session whenever it wants to," said Verma.
17 sessions took place as scheduled and seven sessions were extended beyond the scheduled adjournment date, under the UPA government.
Early Adjournment Hampers Transparency
"Early adjournments are lost opportunities for MPs to seek accountability from the government," said Verma. Early adjournments of sessions can have significant consequences as they limit the chances for MPs to question the government, raise important public issues, and participate in debates on policy issues through short duration discussions and discussions… among other things, Verma explained.
FactChecker tried contacting Derek O'Brien via email for comment and clarification on the percentage of early adjournments by the BJP, but did not receive a response by the time of publication. We will update the article when we do.
(With inputs from Rwit, an intern with IndiaSpend and FactChecker)
This article was updated to reflect the fact that the second part of the 234th session in February 2015 and the 238th session in February 2016 were later conducted as separate sessions.