A day after Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla asked the chairpersons of Standing Committees to not take up any matter that is sub-judice or related to national security as well as to ensure confidentiality of the proceedings, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Wednesday wrote to chairpersons of the House panels to “impress upon” members of the committees not to divulge any “information to the media” about proceedings of the committees.
Naidu, in his letter, said Parliamentary committees have been doing a “commendable job” since their inception and “several recommendations of these committees with regard to Bills considered and reported upon by them, have been accepted by the government which would not have been ordinarily possible in the regular course of legislative process in both the Houses of Parliament”.
“However, for some time now, it has been observed that the media has been found quoting, in their reportage, the proceedings of the Committees related to the subject matters or the legislative Bills under their consideration and examination,” he wrote.
“As you are aware, the proceedings of the Committee meetings are confidential and it is not permissible for a Member of the Committee or anyone who has access to its proceedings to communicate, directly or indirectly, to the media any information regarding its proceedings, including any part of the report or any conclusions arrived at by the committee, finally or tentatively, before the report has been presented to the House, as such action tantamount to breach of privilege of the House.”
In view of that, Naidu wrote, “I urge upon you to impress the Members of Parliament belonging to your Committee and participating in the proceedings to strictly adhere to the existing provisions /direction relating to confidentiality and refrain from premature divulgence of any information to the media, till the Reports are presented to the House.”
The letter comes against the backdrop of a heated exhange between the BJP and the Congress over procedural issues.
After the office of the chairman of the Standing Committee on Information Technology sent a letter to Facebook, seeking an explanation on The Wall Street Journal report which stated that a senior public policy executive of Facebook “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP even after they were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”, a war of words had broken out between Shashi Tharoor, chairman of the panel, and BJP MP in the panel Nishikant Dubey. Both have given a notice of breach of privilege against each other.
Earlier, a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament witnessed a disagreement between chairman Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and BJP members.
Chowdhury had proposed that the committee take up for discussion the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on various sectors but the BJP members strongly opposed it, saying the committee can take up only government expenditure audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).