Seeking permission to move a breach of privilege motion against HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Congress MP K C Venugopal Monday gave a notice to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and contended that Irani misled the House and the nation on the issue of government intervention in Delhi’s JNU and the Hyderabad Central University while intervening in a debate on the topic last week.
While Venugopal cited five instances to back his contention, CPM MP Mohammed Salim is also likely to give a privilege notice against Irani. The party’s general secretary, Sitaram Yechury said, “If the privilege notice is not accepted in Lok Sabha, the party plans to give a notice in Rajya Sabha, of which Smriti Irani is a member.”
In his notice, Venugopal challenged Irani’s statement that a doctor was not allowed near PhD scholar Rohith Vemula after he allegedly hanged himself in a university hostel room on January 17. The Congress MP said the university’s chief medical officer has countered Irani’s claim, and that “security officials found the body in the hostel room and she (the CMO) got a call around 7.20 pm and rushed to the hostel to examine the body”.
The CMO, he pointed out, has also said that by the time she reached, the body had been removed from the ceiling fan and within 10 minutes the student was declared dead. Venugopal said the doctor has claimed to have informed the Vice Chancellor immediately. The V-C, in turn, asked her whether there was any possibility of reviving Vemula, the MP said, adding that the minister’s statement is “highly contradictory”.
The second instance cited by Venugopal was regarding Irani’s claim that a book by social activist Teesta Seetalvad and commissioned by Kapil Sibal, the HRD Minister during the previous UPA regime, was being taught in class IV in Mumbai’s Don Bosco School. Stating that this claim has been countered by the school itself, Venugopal cited The Indian Express’s interview with the school principal, Father Bernard Fernandes, in which he said the handbook was discontinued way back in 2001.
Venugopal also said the student who organised the Mahishasur Martyrdom Day in JNU has denied that the statement Irani had quoted in Parliament was released either by him or his colleagues who organised the event.
The Congress MP also countered Irani’s statement about the release of fellowship stipend to Vemula and her claim that the proctorial board, which decided to expel Vemula and four other Dalit scholars of HCU, had representation from the SC/ST community. Venugopal said it has been reported that there was no SC/ST member on this board.
“This is gross violation of rules of the House and blatant misuse of constitutional powers as a minister,” the Congress MP said, adding that the minister deliberately hid truths.