Two contentious agriculture Bills were passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on September 20, amid protests by the opposition parties.
The Opposition had demanded that the Bills be sent to a select committee for further deliberation. This did not happen, and their next demand for a physical vote too was turned down by the deputy chairman of the House.
Following this, there was chaos in the House and the live telecast of the session was muted. Several members were seen making their way into the Well of the House amid sloganeering and protest against the farm Bills.
The House was then adjourned for a while, and a voice vote was conducted.
The unprecedented fiasco in Parliament led many to take sides, with questions being raised about the conduct of the parliamentarians as well as the dubious voice voting method resorted to for the passage of the controversial bills.
What is voice voting?
A preferred method of voting in Parliament, a voice vote is an oral communication of agreement or disagreement to a proposed motion in the House. Bills tabled in Parliament are conventionally passed by both the Houses, usually by this method as it is quicker.
Those for or against the motion have to convey their vote by saying Aye or No, respectively. This is done when the chairman asks, "Those in favour of the motion say Aye and those opposing it say No."
Based on a rough idea of which side (Ayes or Noes) were louder, a Bill is deemed to have been accepted or rejected by the House.
In this method, the votes are not recorded and the number of Ayes and Noes are not announced by the chairman.
Is that the only way though?
No. Although, conventionally Parliament has resorted to voice voting, it is not the only way to determine support or opposition to a resolution moved in the House.
A voice vote can be challenged by a member and a division can be asked for. This is another way of voting by the members of Parliament, wherein they can vote in favour of or oppose a motion.
If the decision in case of a voice vote is challenged, the chairman can, if he chooses, ask the members who are for 'Aye' or 'No' to rise in their places for a count to be taken to determine the result. In this case too, the votes are not recorded.
Another way is to order a division to be held by recording votes for or against the motion. This can be done in two ways - by using an automatic voice recorder or by sending the members into the lobbies. For this, the lobbies are required to be cleared.
In both these methods, the votes are recorded.
So where did the problem arise in case of the recently passed farm Bills?
The decision as to which method of voting should be resorted to is made depending on the nature of the Bill and the support for it. Voice voting is preferred as it helps save time.
But in case of the farm Bills, the Opposition had made certain demands that were rejected. Subsequently, a cabinet minister, who is also a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of the ruling-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, tendered her resignation.
Thus, the chairman's decision to sidestep the call for a division and announce the passage of these Bills by a voice vote, despite concerns over the same by members of the Opposition as well as those of the BJP's allies, made it all the more controversial.