Parliament was adjourned sine die on Monday amid growing concerns over the Covid-19 outbreak and the effective lockdown across several parts of India, including the national capital.
The Finance Bill and Appropriation Bills were cleared, even as retiring members of the Rajya Sabha bid an emotional adieu, recalling their association with the legislature.
With the budget session adjourned sine die, Election Commission (EC) officials and senior leaders said the Rajya Sabha elections scheduled for Thursday will most likely be postponed. Most legislative businesses across state assemblies, too, have been suspended due to the pandemic.
Nearly one-fifth of Rajya Sabha members are retiring, a move that is likely to change its overall composition. While 37 members have already been elected unopposed, polling was scheduled to take place for 18 seats on Thursday. EC is yet to officially announce if polling is going to be postponed.
The decision to adjourn both Houses sine die, nearly a fortnight ahead of the concluding date, was taken after strong pressure from Opposition parties, including the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC), to curtail the session after prioritizing finance-related legislation. The decision was arrived at in consultation with senior leaders of all political parties.
“After discussing with leaders of various parties, it is decided that the House will be adjourned after completion of business of today in the view of coronavirus-related issue," said Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu. Although the Union government was keen to continue with the proceedings of the budget session, it had to give in to the demands of the Opposition and a section of alliance partners.
The Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill before it was adjourned sine die. The Union government also introduced in Rajya Sabha the Appropriation Bill, 2020, Appropriation (No.2) Bill, 2020 and the Finance Bill, 2020—classified as money bills—which were returned to the Lok Sabha without discussion.
The Opposition members wanted to know when the government would announce a financial package for sectors affected by the “extraordinary situation" over Covid-19.
The Rajya Sabha discussed the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bills, but the highlight of the day was farewell speeches by retiring members. Senior Congress leader Motilal Vora, 92, recalled his association with former prime minster and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former finance minister Arun Jaitley.
“I got a lot in life and I had a lot of drive to work and I still have…I will end my speech with lines of poet Robert Frost—miles to go before I sleep," Vora said, amid appreciation from both the Opposition and treasury benches. The budget session took place in two phases—from 31 January to 11 February and from 2 March.
The session saw the passage of the budget for 2020-21, and discussions on a number of key issues, including the communal riots in Delhi.