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Explained: What is Voice Vote and how is it causing the decline of Legislature?

Why in News?

Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed by the Karnataka State Legislative Council and has recently been passed by the Karnataka State Legislative Council. 

The bill was already passed in the Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha). The question has been raised on the way the bill has been passed by the State Legislative Council. The bill was passed by the Council based on voice vote. 

What has happened?

BJP has a majority in the Legislative Assembly where the Bill was passed but in the State Legislative Council the majority belongs to the Opposition in Karnataka. However Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed in the Council based on  Voice Vote and the issue was not even taken up once the Opposition demanded a recount. 

The question now is that is this a violation of Constitutional norms?

What is the rule?

As per the Rules 252, 253, 254 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha, there are various methods for Division in the House. These are:

i) Voice Vote- 252

ii) Counting

iii) Section 253: Division by automatic vote recorder

iv) Section 254: Division by going into the Lobbies 

Rule 252: 

  1. The Chairman puts up a question at the end of the debate, before the house and invites all those who are in favour of the motion to say 'Aye' and those against the motion to say 'Nay'/ ‘No’.
  2. It is based on voice vote and the chairman only would decide to look into any opposition against the bill. In case he decides to address the bill, the members who said Aye or No are respectively asked to rise on their places. No names of the voters are still recorded. 

Rule 253:

  1. This rule is for the Division with the aid of Automatic Recorder
  2. Every member is assigned a fixed seat
  3. Each seat is provided with an integrated microphone and voting console containing four buttons. 

P- Present

A- Ayes

O- Abstain

N- Noes

There is also a security button in RED for vote activation. It is to be pressed for 10 seconds. 

Rule 254: 

  1. This rule defines the division by going into Lobbies
  2. In case the Chairman decides that the votes would be recorded by the members going into various lobbies, he may ask the Ayes to go and stay in the right lobby and the 'Noes’ to go into the Left Lobby.
  3. In each lobby, the members vote is recorded by the Division Clerk concerned. 

How is Voice Vote causing a decline of legislature?

Voice Vote is turning Second House to secondary house: It is evident that Second House does not have many powers. They only have the power to stay the bill till 4 months at maximum. The voice vote has given unattended power to the Chairman of the House which can be misused. 

Eg: 42nd Amendment of the Constitution could not be completely reversed as Morarji Desai Government as they did not have majority in Rajya Sabha. 

Thus the second house has had a power to check the Lok Sabha then but as now the Voice Vote is being used with such frequency, decline of legislature has been quite evident. 

Money Bill: In this type of bill or Article 110, the second house still has no powers. Many times the bills are introduced as money bills to avoid them being opposed by the Rajya Sabha. 

Covid-19 and Legislature: The basic part of the House Debate, the Question Hour was skipped by the Parliament this time. The time of discussion for each bill has declined continuously since 2014. Thus the decline of the legislature is very evident here. 

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