At a meeting of the Rules Committee on Friday, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was authorised to hold consultations with all stakeholders to consider revising the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business to ensure that members did not enter the well of the House.
Even as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar made a conclusive observation to this effect towards the end of the meeting, Mahajan pointed out that any revision has to be moved as a motion in Lok Sabha and voted by the House.
The Speaker expressed serious concern over the “painful manner” in which members showing “a scant regard for rules” displayed placards, entered the Well and shouted slogans.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mahajan said, “All Parliamentarians have come here after getting the mandate from people. They are representatives of the people. It’s everybody’s responsibility to ensure that the House functions.” Asked if there was a need to take disciplinary action against those who disrupted proceedings, Mahajan said it was not required in these times. “There is a need for self-discipline,” she said.
Sources disclosed that the Speaker felt that Rule 374A (1) needed a slight change. It says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in Rules 373 and 374, in the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the Well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently, and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less: Provided that the House may, at any time, on a motion being made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.”
Sources said that Mahajan favoured deletion of the words “on being named by the Speaker”, implying that an erring member should be automatically suspended without being named.
BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahatab said the Chhattisgarh Assembly’s rulebook had a similar provision. Rule No. 250 of the Chhattisgarh Assembly, he pointed out, clearly stated, “During the sitting of the House, no member shall leave his seat to enter the well of the House. The membership of such a member, who enters the well of the House, shall be considered automatically suspended from the service of the House for the period determined by the Speaker.”
Nishikant Dubey of the BJP and Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress endorsed the suggestion but were of the view that the suspension should only be for a day, according to sources.
Mahtab said the issue had two dimensions — one related to disruptions while remaining in the sitting area of the Lok Sabha chamber, and another regarding encroachment of the official area (well) of the House. He said Rule 374 of the Lok Sabha needed addition for addressing the issue of members entering the official area and creating problems for other members.
Members of the committee were divided on the matter. Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai (AIADMK) was of the view that the job is left to the next Lok Sabha. Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, had written to the Speaker that the present Lok Sabha had reached the fag end of its tenure and it would be better if the issue was resolved by the new House.
Kharge chose to write to Mahajan because Shashi Tharoor, Congress representative on the panel, was unable to make it to the meeting.
However, BJP leaders Nishikant Dubey, Ganesh Singh and Dilip Kumar Gandhi felt that “this is an opportune time” to revisit the rule book.