No word banned, expunction based on context, says Om Birla

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Times of India, July 15, 2022

Expressing wonderment over the controversy sparked by the Lok Sabha secretariat issuing a compilation of terms and expressions expunged by Parliament and state legislatures, Speaker Om Birla on Thursday asserted that no word has been banned.

Speaking against the backdrop of a row between BJP and opposition over alleged attempt to gag Parliament, Birla said Parliament has been bringing out compilations of “unparliamentary” expressions since 1954, adding that the expunction of such remarks follows a process that was laid down in 1959 and the catalogue of such excisions since the inception now runs into 1100 pages.

“The first such list was published in 1954 and again, in 1986, 1992, 1999, 2004 and 2009. After 2018, this compilation, in order to reduce the use of paper, is uploaded on the Lok Sabha intranet and Members’ portal for the use of MPs and for the benefit of the larger audience,” he said.

The Speaker decided to hold a press conference as BJP traded barbs with Congress and others in the opposition, with the ruling party dismissing the whole controversy as baseless, and opposition alleging authoritarianism.

Birla regretted the controversy, saying the book lists terms used by members of BJP and opposition during the course of debates and discussions or exchanges, which were deemed by the two Houses of Parliament and state legislatures to be not in conformity with the dignity of parliamentary practice and were expunged. “It is unfair to say that words used by the opposition were expunged selectively. Words have been expunged only after the objections raised by members from both sides,” he said.

He said governments, either at the Centre or states, had nothing to do with the exercise which was done by Parliament and state legislatures which are completely autonomous and could take independent decisions. “No word has been deleted or forbidden for use. However, it will be subject to the discretion of the presiding officer to expunge a word used during the parliamentary debate. Even after that, a member is allowed to raise an objection and give a representation. While the final decision is vested in the presiding officer, members are given hearing,” Birla said.

He regretted that partisan motives have been attributed to something which has been a well-settled practice and has been followed for decades in legislatures of all compositions. “This is a process that has been followed since 1959. Members during the course of debates or while having exchanges may use expressions which are not found to be in keeping with the dignity of Parliament, and these have to be expunged,” he said.
In the preface to the book “Unparliamentary Expressions 2021”, the Editorial Board, comprising Lok Sabha secretary general Utpal Kumar Singh and other senior officials, says, “The present compilation contains references to words and expressions declared unparliamentary in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state legislatures in India during the year 2021. It also contains words and expressions disallowed in some Commonwealth Parliaments.” It added that some of the words may not appear unparliamentary “unless read in conjunction with other expressions spoken during the parliamentary proceedings”.

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