Mere 4% of MPs disturbing House: Speaker

The Hindu, August 27, 2010

A mere four per cent of MPs frequently disturb parliamentary proceedings and they prevent the large majority of colleagues from discharging their constitutional obligation to legislate, debate issues of public concern and ensure executive accountability, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar told party leaders at a meeting she called here on Wednesday.

The Speaker, it seems, was unhappy with some leaders, notably Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party and Gopinath Munde of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who last week held a mock parliamentary session, nominating themselves to the positions of Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. This, she felt, undermined Parliament as an institution.

Violation of rights

At the meeting ? attended, among others, by Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP Parliamentary Party chairman L.K. Advani and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj ? Ms. Kumar circulated a paper for discussion emphasising that frequent disruptions violated the rights of 96 per cent of the MPs who did not disrupt Parliament and whose calling attention notices and questions could not be taken up as a result of the stalling of the House and adjournments. ?Article 105 is freedom of speech and not the freedom to disrupt the speech [of someone else],? she said forcefully, indicting those who, with their lung power, frequently drown the voice of other MPs.

Her stern and grave warning was that frequent disruptions were fraught the danger of rendering Parliament irrelevant, of creating an impression among people that MPs were not interested in the orderly conduct of the House and of people even losing faith in the institution.

Apparently, the mock session came up during the meeting and party leaders regretted the episode. Later, Ms. Swaraj told journalists that the BJP certainly did not approve of it. The main Opposition is understood to have pointed out that in certain situations, walkouts and forced adjournments were ?legitimate? parliamentary tools, but agreed that these tactics had to be used sparingly. ?The exception should not become the rule.? Ms. Swaraj wanted the Speaker to list which party had stalled proceedings on which day on what issue, and then call for another inter-session meeting where the matter could be discussed in detail.

Ms. Swaraj said the Opposition could best present its case through discussion and debate and by insisting on executive accountability through questions and calling attention notices. ?It is the Opposition that gets hurt by frequent disruptions and democracy that gets hurt the most.?

The one-hour meeting before the start of Wednesday’s parliamentary proceedings ended inconclusively for lack of time. The Speaker is expected to call another meeting to take forward the discussion and arrive at some consensus.

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