The government and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh have justified passing the farm bills on September 20 through a voice vote saying opposition members were not in their seats when they asked for physical voting. But Rajya Sabha footage accessed by NDTV shows otherwise.
Footage reviewed by NDTV shows that at least two of the three members who had called for the controversial bills to be sent to a select committee and sought amendments -- KK Ragesh and Trichy Siva -- were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes.
The opposition has alleged that the government lacked numbers, which would have been proved had physical voting been held. They also accused the Deputy Chairman, who was presiding at the time, of helping the government by enabling the voice vote.
Opposition leaders say Harivansh Singh's conduct that day was in violation of at least three parliamentary laws -- the most important being Rule 252 which says that if a decision of a Rajya Sabha question is challenged, he ''... shall order a 'Division' to be held under which the votes can be recorded and matter decided.''
The opposition also alleges that rules were broken while extending that day's proceedings on the request of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi. The day's business can be extended only if both the government and the opposition agree.
But footage shows that around 1.03 pm, the Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "Opposition parties are saying that time should not be extended today and tomorrow the minister can reply..."
DMK MP Trichy Siva, a member of parliament for the last two decades, told NDTV, "Usually, the house is extended after taking consensus of the house".
The opposition says that the footage, which appears to show Harivansh Singh looking only at the government benches and not in the direction of the opposition, came just before he decided to extend the session despite members from 12 opposition parties on their feet asking for an adjournment so the bills could be taken up the next day.
Calling the Parliamentary Affairs Minister's request to extend the house till the passing of the bills a "normal practice", law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad later said, "The sense of the house is not gathered by majority and minority".
Footage from that day also showed that at 1.10 pm, when the Deputy Chairman took up Trichy Siva's motion for sending the bills to a select committee, he was in his seat and he had demanded a division of votes. But the motion was negated through a voice vote.
When CPM member KK Ragesh's amendment was taken up at 1.11 pm, he was also in his seat and he too, demanded a division of votes, shows the footage. But again, the amendment was rejected by a voice vote.
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Ragesh said the government allegation that members were not in their seats while demanding physical voting was a "blatant lie".
The opposition had also moved a motion of no-confidence against Deputy Chairman Harivansh, which was rejected by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.
The Deputy Chairman, responding to the footage, denied the opposition's allegations with an "incident report" detailing a minute-by-minute account of what happened inside the house. He also enclosed video footage of relevant portions -- during motions by CPM's KK Ragesh and DMK's Tiruchy Siva.
"The statutory resolution disapproving the ordinance and the amendment for the reference of the bill to select committee moved by Sri KK Ragesh were negatived by a voice vote by the house at 1.07 pm as Sri Ragesh was in the Well of the house and not on his seat in the gallery at that point of time. This can be seen from the video as after calling him to move his resolution and amendment, I looked at the gallery, but he was not there," his note read.
Regarding Tiruchy Siva's motion for sending the bills to a select committee, taken up at 1.10 pm when he was in his seat and demanded division of votes, Mr Singh's note, citing the chaos at the time, read: "You will appreciate, that as per rules and practice, in order to have a division, two things are essential. Firstly there should be a demand for division and equally important that there should be order in the house."