Congress MPs on Friday alleged in the Rajya Sabha that the railway budget had been “leaked” to The Indian Express, following which Chairman Hamid Ansari said that the government needed to examine whether “norms of official secrecy were infringed”.
Ansari, however, rejected notices for breach of privilege.
The Indian Express had reported on July 8 that the rail budget was likely to contain an announcement on the concept of ‘Office on Wheels’ — cabins with Internet, computers, etc. — for business travellers in select trains. Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda made the announcement in the budget.
Ansari said he had received notices of breach of privilege from six members alleging “leakage” of the railway budget. He said the matter had been raised in the House on July 8, the day of the rail budget, as well.
The Chairman said he had examined the notices on the basis of the case, materials on record, and precedents.
“It is a fact that some of the proposals of the government which found place in the Railway Minister’s budget speech were indeed reported by The Indian Express in its issue of July 8, the day on which the budget was presented,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that contents of the budget speech of the Railway Minister were reported in the media. This needs to be looked into by the government to ascertain if norms of official secrecy were infringed.”
However, presiding officers have observed on several occasions that the prior reporting of a budget proposal did not constitute a breach of privilege, the Chairman said. “I have no reasons to differ with these rulings of the past. Accordingly, I hold that these notices are not admissible,” he said.
The Opposition wanted to know what action the government would take in the matter.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “Government will respect advice and direction of the Chair. I will ask that the issue should be examined… I have been told that such instances took place earlier and we will see what action had been taken. Based on it action will be taken.”
The Congress’s Satyavrat Chaturvedi, who was leading the opposition, continued to insist that “the Chairman, based on available evidences has found that certain portions were leaked,” not heeding to Deputy Chairman P J Kurien’s pleas that “after Chairman’s ruling, the issue is over”.
Chaturvedi’s party colleague Rajeev Shukla said, “Certain points have appeared in the newspaper. Crime has been committed. This matter is serious. We need some kind of direction from the government.”
CPI’s D Raja said the secrecy of the document had been compromised.
The privilege notices were given by Madhusudan Mistry, V Hanumantha Rao, Ashk Ali Tak, Shantaram Naik, Rajani Patil and Praveen Rashtrapal, all of the Congress.
BJP leaders Prabhat Jha, Shahnawaz Hussain and Krishnapal Gujar also addressed a number of rallies.