Opposition on collision course with Senate chief

Published August 27, 2020
Sanjrani said unfortunately the spirit of devolution of his discretionary power to the house was misunderstood and an untoward situation between the treasury and opposition benches was created. — Online/File
Sanjrani said unfortunately the spirit of devolution of his discretionary power to the house was misunderstood and an untoward situation between the treasury and opposition benches was created. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: A day after the Senate rejected two FATF-related bills, the opposition on Wednesday questioned the legality of the entire proceedings leading to the voting process and said the bills could not be sent to the joint sitting of parliament.

While the opposition controverted the discretionary powers exercised by the Senate chairman to allow the motion seeking permission to take the bills for consideration, Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani ruled that the proceedings were in accordance with the rules of business.

PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani while raising the issue said the chairman could not have exercised his discretion in terms of Rule 120 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012, because he had forgone this discretionary power by allowing a motion under Rule 263, which was placed on the Orders of the Day for suspension of Rule 120.

Questions legality of proceedings in upper house of parliament on FATF-related bills; Sanjrani rules the process was as per rules

“Since the notice period of two days as stipulated under Rule 120 had not been waived by the house, therefore, Order No. 27 and 29 (bills on the agenda) could not have been taken up,” he opined.

Mr Rabbani said even if the proposition was kept aside, Order 27 and 29 on the agenda on Tuesday were motions asking for taking into consideration the bills as passed by the National Assembly.

“The house refused to give permission for the said bills to be taken into consideration,” therefore, he said the procedure adopted for the second reading of the bills and moving of the bills was in contravention of the rules and practices of the Senate. As the house refused the leave to take into consideration the bills, therefore, all subsequent steps are ultra vires of the rules.

“The bills have not been rejected or passed by the Senate, therefore, they cannot be transmitted back to the National Assembly or to a joint sitting of parliament,” he said.

He said one of the bills sought to convert the entire nation into “mukhbirs” (informers) against each other. “Sub-section (12) of Section (2) of the bill defines the designated non-financial businesses and professionals — including lawyers, notaries and other legal professions, accountants, jewellers, real estate agents, real estate developers and property dealers. In Clause 13, it has been made compulsory upon reported entities to assist investigation agencies ... and if they don’t they are liable to prosecution and punishment.”

He said: “In Clause 10 of the bill they are asking for deletion of Section 15 of the original act that provides for powers to arrest. In the original act the investigation officer had to make an arrest by way of a warrant of arrest obtained from a court while here the power to arrest is being given without a warrant.

Mr Rabbani said Schedule (2) of the original bill which carried the members of the executive committee was being amended and two members of the armed forces were being inducted as its members.

He said Schedule (3) of the original bill which contained the members of the general committee under the NAB chairman was being amended and two members of the armed forces were being made members of the committee.

On the other hand, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in his detailed ruling over the controversy said the two bills titled “The Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, 2020” and “The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020”, as passed by the National Assembly on August 24, were placed on the agenda for the Senate sitting held on August 25.

He said unfortunately the spirit of devolution of his discretionary power to the house was misunderstood and an untoward situation between the treasury and opposition benches was created.

“It was the constitutional prerogative of the house either to pass or reject the bills. The bills were rejected by the voice vote at all stages. Therefore, both bills were rejected after due exercise of constitutional rights by the members present. Neither the placement of motion under Rule 263 on the Orders of the Day for dispensation of requirements of Rule 120 was improper nor was the use of discretion in the larger national interest barred by the rules and rejection of the bills was under the spirit of the constitution and the rules.

The chairman welcomed and agreed with a suggestion given by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan for formation of a joint parliamentary committee on the issues of erstwhile Fata.

The house also witnessed the treasury and the opposition members trading corruption charges and criticising each other for doing politics on health of Mr Sharif.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2020

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