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Rajya Sabha Scraps ‘Namaz’ Break on Fridays, Aligns Timing with Lok Sabha

The Rajya Sabha has done away with the extra 30-minute lunch break on Fridays, which was meant to allow Muslim members to offer namaz.

The Upper House will now sit at 2 PM on Fridays, in sync with the Lok Sabha, as announced by the Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar on Wednesday.

“Lok Sabha sits at 2 PM. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, being integral part of Parliament, need to adhere to the same time to the extent possible and, therefore, it was 2 PM on an earlier occasion as directed by me. So, this is not a beginning today”, said Dhankar.

The decision, which was taken by Dhankhar in the last session, sparked a controversy, as some opposition members objected to it calling it a long-standing practice.

However, Dhankhar defended his move asserting that it was done after due deliberation and that both the Houses of Parliament should adhere to the same time to the extent possible.

The issue came up during the zero hour on Friday, when DMK MP Tiruchi N. Siva raised a point of order and pointed out that in the revised list of businesses, an agenda was listed at 2 PM on Friday, December 8.

He said that the revised list of businesses indicated an agenda at 2 PM on Friday, December 8, conflicting with the established practice for the Rajya Sabha to convene after lunch at 2.30 PM on Fridays. This timing accommodates Muslim members to observe namaz.

Dhankhar defended his decision, saying that this was not a recent alteration and had been previously implemented by him with a clear rationale. He pointed out that the Lok Sabha convenes at 2 PM on Fridays, accommodating members from diverse segments. Dhankhar said that he deliberately made this adjustment, communicated it to the House, and had already implemented it in the preceding session.

During the exchange, DMK MP M. Mohamed Abdulla interjected, registering his dissent against the decision. Abdulla said that the 2.30 PM timing had been a longstanding practice spanning 60-70 years, specifically designated to facilitate Muslim members in observing Jummah on Fridays.

Dhankhar, however, maintained his stance.

He said that specific exceptions cannot be made solely for Muslim members. Dhankhar reiterated that the decision was made after careful consideration and aligned with the timetable observed by the Lok Sabha.

After the chairman reiterated his stand, there were no more protests from the members and the House proceeded with the business.

Nevertheless, the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha, available on the Sansad website, have not been updated to reflect this recent adjustment. The current online version, the 2016 edition of the rulebook, still indicates an additional lunch break of 30 minutes on Fridays.

As per the existing rules, the House is slated to sit from 11 AM to 1 PM and then from 2 PM to 6 PM, with an exception on Fridays.

The decision to scrap the ‘namaz’ break on Fridays has been seen as a significant move by Dhankhar, who took over as the 14th Vice President and ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha on August 11, succeeding M Venkaiah Naidu.

Dhankhar, who was the West Bengal governor till he was nominated by the BJP-led NDA to contest the vice-presidential election, is the only vice-president nominated by the BJP who was never a Rajya Sabha MP. He was a Lok Sabha MP between 1989 and 1991 from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan.

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