The government today faced embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha when the Chair passed strictures against it for not inviting Vice President Hamid Ansari for the inauguration of a new annexe complex of Parliament.
A united opposition slammed the government for "insulting" the Upper House by ignoring its presiding officer, who is also the Vice President of India, and the Rajya Sabha MPs at an official function yesterday.
"I think the Hon'ble Chairman should have been invited," Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said after Congress, CPI(M) and SP members raised the issue of Ansari and the Rajya Sabha MPs not being invited for the inauguration of the new Parliament House Annex building.
Kurien said the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has "already written to the Lok Sabha Secretariat regarding the impropriety of not inviting the Chairman."
Responding to the issue raised by the members, he said though the management of the Parliament House complex is done by the Lok Sabha Speaker, there is no document on record to suggest that a decision to that effect was ever taken.
"Management of the premises of Parliament from day one has been done by Lok Sabha. But actually there is no document to the best of our knowledge to suggest that such a decision was taken," he said.
Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the management has been done through committees since 1952.
Soon after the listed papers were laid in the House, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said no one should undermine or attempt to undermine the importance of the Upper House.
For all official Parliament functions, Rajya Sabha Chairman and Deputy Chairman, as also Lok Sabha Speaker and Deputy Speaker along with MPs are invited, he said, adding that this rule applied to all official functions in the Central Hall as well as in the premises of the Parliament House complex.
Foundation stone of the Parliament House Annex building was laid in 2009 jointly following the same convention, Azad said.
Yesterday, the building complex was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"We have no objection to the Prime Minister inaugurating the building," he said. "But the chairman and deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha were not there. This is an issue of prestige of the House."
Stating that since the issue involved non-invitation of the deputy chairman as well, he would ask the Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to respond if the government has bid a goodbye to Rajya Sabha. "Is it not part of Constitution?"
"This is an insult of the entire House.... Chairman and deputy chairman have not been given due respect," he said.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said Rajya Sabha MPs did not even have information about the inauguration, leave alone an invitation for the function.
He said the management and supervision of the Parliament House complex is done by Lok Sabha Speaker whereas it should be the joint responsibility of both the Houses. "I request you to provide document" specifying that role, Yechury said.
On chairman and deputy chairman not being invited for the function, he said, "What is happening is illegal. You are bypassing (Rajya Sabha). You are insulting (Upper House)."
Naresh Agarwal (SP) said Rajya Sabha was constituted first and Lok Sabha later. Also, chairman of Upper House is the Vice President of India and higher in protocol than the Lok Sabha Speaker.
Rajya Sabha members not being invited is "very condemnable," he said.
Tirichi Siva (DMK) said local monitoring committees only have Lok Sabha MPs and those from Rajya Sabha are not included.
Minister of State for Parliament Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Parliament House complex is managed by Lok Sabha Secretariat since 1952 and there is nothing new that the present government has done.
Azad countered it saying that never since 1952, has the Rajya Sabha been neglected and no official function has been held without involving the presiding officers of both Houses.
"This has not been the practice (since 1952). Don't mislead the House," he told Naqvi.