The political spat over the decision of Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP and chairman of the Standing Committee on Information Technology, to summon Facebook over a report in The Wall Street Journal has intensified, with Tharoor and BJP MP Nishikant Dubey giving a notice of breach of privilege against each other.
The office of the chairman of the standing committee had 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”.
In his letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Tharoor said he decided to summon a meeting of the committee to discuss the alleged misconduct of Facebook as part of its discussions on “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.
“Despite this, Dubey insultingly criticized my decision to do so stating that ‘The Chairman of the Standing Committee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its member’ and accused me of championing my political party’s ‘agenda without authorisation by the Committee and Speaker’. This amounts to a three-fold breach of privilege,” he wrote.
Terming Dubey’s remarks against him as “disparaging”, the Congress MP said, “…contemptuous words used by Dubey have cast aspersions on the intent and integrity with which I fulfil my duties as an elected representative of people of Thiruvananthapuram in the Lok Sabha. Second, such words constitute unwarranted vilification of the Committee’s name and the manner in which it discharges its functions. Third, his actions have painted an ignominious picture of the revered institution of Parliament by indicating that its functionaries have circumvented the process that they are expected to follow.”
He stated the “subject under which the Meeting had been summoned, amongst others, had been unanimously approved by the Committee members and other branches of the Secretariat such as your office and that of the Secretary General…”
“I would urge you to issue necessary directions to initiate proceedings against him for committing a breach of privilege on multiple accounts and contempt of the House,” he added.
Dubey, on the other hand, stated in his notice, “Tharoor has surpassed all limits of decency, ethics and basic tenets of Parliamentary procedure and practice vis-a-vis smooth functioning of Parliamentary Committee by way of committing a grave ‘Breach of Privilege’, not only in the capacity of an individual honourable Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha but also remaining in the exalted position of Chairperson of one of the most important Departmentally Related Standing Committees, viz., Information Technology.”
Dubey said Tharoor had not discussed the move to write to Facebook with members of the committee.
Alleging that Tharoor has committed a serious breach of privilege to use the committee platform “not only to serve his political agenda but also to tarnish BJP and sensationalise a small incident by misusing his official powers”, the BJP MP urged Birla to initiate a privilege motion.
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