The Rajya Sabha proceedings were washed out on Tuesday as the Opposition created uproar, alleging that different kinds of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currency notes were being printed which was the 'biggest scam of the century'.
The government hit back by accusing the Congress and the Trinamool Congress of raising 'frivolous' issues and creating confusion in the country by making such claims.
The House saw continuous slogan-shouting by the members of the Congress and Trinamool Congress, because of which it was adjourned six times before the final adjournment for the day, just minutes after 2.30 pm.
Significantly, Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav sided with the Opposition parties on the issue despite his party now being a constituent of the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress party has been raising 'frivolous' issues, without giving notices, to stall Zero Hour proceedings.
Some members including Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress displayed the new Rs 500 notes issued after demonetisation to show the different sizes they were bring printed.
O’Brien first offered to submit the notes to Jaitley for scrutiny and then walked up to him to explain to him the difference. He, however, did not leave the notes with the finance minister.
Jaitley said there is no provision in the rules that anyone could “flash any paper and say it is point of order.”
"There is a misuse of Zero Hour which is going on," he said, adding that the Congress first raised the issue of provision for None-Of-The-Above in the ballot for Rajya Sabha poll but then discovered that the provision had been made during their rule. 'You have been raising frivolous issues in the Zero Hour without giving notice' with a view to disrupt and not get replies, he said.
Jaitley, however, did not reply to the Opposition contention on different sized notes.
The issue was raised by Kapil Sibal of the Congress as soon as the House met for the day at 11 am.
He said different sizes of the new high denomination currency was being printed -- 'one for the ruling party (members) and one for the others'.
Sibal, who raised the issue through a point of order, went on to add, “We have today discovered the reason why the government did demonetisation (of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes in November last year).”
Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “This is the biggest scam of this century.”
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi strongly countered the contention of the Congress leaders.
Naqvi said the Congress members were creating confusion as the demonetisation had hit hard the corrupt people.
He said any attempt to protect the corrupt people would not succeed.
Azad said two types of notes are being printed and that “The government has no right to remain in office for even five minutes.”
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said even if there are two types of notes, it cannot be a point of order. “You raise the issue in a different form.”
Joining the Congress members, Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress said, “It is a serious issue.” He then displayed Rs 500 notes that he said were different in size and design.
Prasad asked opposition members to explain where they got the currency notes from.
Sharad Yadav said no country in the world has two notes of different sizes. “One is bigger, one is smaller,” he said. “I can give signed (copies of the notes).”
Kurien said he is not an expert to examine the notes. “You give separate notice.” “I will give them to finance minister,” O’Brien said.
Kurien said he had no objection if O’Brien did so.
Congress’s Anand Sharma said the credibility of the currency in circulation has been challenged.
Kurien, however, maintained that the issue cannot be taken up through a point of order and the members have to give separate notice.
Pramod Tiwari of the Congress said notice has been given, to which Kurien said the Chairman will examine them.
As the din continued, Kurien adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes.
After the adjournment, as slogan-shouting continued, Kurien asked the members again to give notice on the issue.
O’Brien said he has given notice for discussion on demonetisation for the past three weeks, but the government has not yet listed the matter.
As the din continued, Kurien adjourned the House till noon.
Similar noisy scenes were witnessed when the House re-assembled for the Question Hour.
Chairman Hamid Ansari then adjourned the proceedings for another 15 minutes.
When the House assembled again, the opposition members continued their slogan-shouting.
One of the members was seen displaying Rs 500 notes as other Congress leaders raised anti-government slogans. Ansari asked them to allow the Question Hour to proceed, but to no avail. As the protests continued, the Chairman adjourned the House till 1 pm.
Due to uproar, the House was again adjourned till 2 pm and then till 2.30 pm.
As soon as the Upper House re-assembled at 2.30 pm after six adjournments, Congress members again created noisy scenes, saying they wanted to raise a point of order on the issue of currency notes.
Kurien refused to allow, maintaining, “I have to go by rule book”.
Terming it a serious issue, Kapil Sibal said it affected the entire monetary system. "Does the House not want to know?...This pertains to future of currency. We just want to place some facts. Finance Minister is here," he said.
His party colleague Pramod Tiwari added, “Nothing is important than the country and the issue is linked with national security and trust.”
He termed it as a 'heinous crime” and a “big scam'.
Kurien said there was a certain procedure for raising allegations and “slogan-shouting was no solution to any problem.”
He asked the Opposition, mainly Congress, whose members had trooped into the well to give a proper notice to raise the issue.
Amid the din, the Samajwadi Patry leader Naresh Agarwal said his party was staging a walkout in support of the issue.
As sloganeering by the Congress as well as the ruling party continued, Kurien urged the members to go back to their seats and allow the House to take up the discussion.
He told the Congress members: “If you consider the issue very serious, then give notice for discussion.”
He also questioned the ruling party members who were standing: “Why are you agitated? ...What is there for you to be agitated?”
He then adjourned the House till Wednesday.
Earlier at 2 pm, the House approved sending the Motor Vehicles Bill 2017 to a Select Committee.