The Rajya Sabha on Friday saw uproar over broadcast and publication of certain expunged remarks of a Samajwadi Party (SP) member regarding Hindu Gods, prompting Chairman Hamid Ansari to promise that show cause notices would be sent to a TV channel and some newspapers.
Ansari also promised to look into the Opposition demand for privilege proceedings against certain media houses for disseminating the expunged remarks made by SP leader Naresh Agrawal two days back during a discussion on lynchings. “I have heard this morning’s proceedings. I have received a notice from some members raising a question of previlege against a TV channel and some newspapers for making defamatory remarks against a member of this House,” Ansari said. “The secretariat has been asked to issue a show cause notice and further inquire into the matter… We will ask for a factual report from the concerned authorities about what the member (Agrawal) is saying,” he added.
The issue was raised by Agrawal himself, saying certain remarks made by him in the House were expunged by the Chair which had also ordered against publication or telecast of those remarks. Agrawal alleged that members of BJP’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) had attacked and vandalised his house in Delhi while a ruling party worker filed an FIR against him in Meerut in connection with these remarks.
The SP leader said if a member is threatened for speaking in the House, it is disrespect of the MPs as well as that of the House. “Isn’t this lynching?” Terming the issue raised by the Opposition as a serious matter, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said if anything has been expunged, no one can print it and nobody has the authority to file an FIR on the basis of the expunged remarks.
He asked the government to inquire into the incident and take action. “If the MP’s home has been vandalised or attacked, the government should inquire, come back (to the House) and take action”. However, the Opposition did not yield and several of them including from Congress, SP and Left parties trooped into the Well shouting slogans against the BJP.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government was against any kind of violence and the House can take action as per the rules. He, however added that the government was against “censorship”. At one point during the uproar, Naqvi even said, “why not stop live telecast (House proceedings).” Joining the issue, Javed Ali Khan (SP) said an editor of a publicaton had gone to the extent of writing on his official website that had he been in the House then, he would have held the collar of the member and dragged him out.
Kurien repeatedly called for material evidence, saying he could not rely on WhatsApp messages as some members were displaying on their mobile phones. “Give notice with evidence and I will take action,” he said, as some members including Sukhendu Shekhar Roy (TMC) and Anand Sharma (Congress) sought immediate initiation of privilege proceedings against those newspapers and TV channels which had disseminated these remarks made in the House and expunged by the Chair on Wednesday. “I cannot act like an instant coffee. Notice has to be examined. (Give notice) I will come back today itself,” the Deputy Chairman said.
As the opposition members continued to raise slogans, Kurien adjourned the House for about 15 minutes till noon. When the House re-assembled at 12 noon for the Question Hour, the noisy scenes continued. Anand Sharma (Congress) said a ruling had been given that neither the print media nor the electronic media shall reproduce or telecast the expunged remarks.
“But it happened. It is a brazen breach…Members have given a notice. The rule makes it very clear that if the Chair is satisfied of the urgency of the matter, then it has to be immediately referred to a previlege committee. Summons must be issued,” Sharma said. He also said the government should now produce the evidence and FIR should be registered.
Pramod Tiwari (Congress) said discussions in the House cannot be challenged outside and the FIR against the SP member was contempt of Parliament. Joining the issue, Tapan Sen (CPI-M rpt CPI-M), in an apparent reference to the ruling party, said, “You have let loose your goons against people who oppose you.”
Sharma charged that it has become a “favourite “pass time” of certain TV channels to show parliamentarians in poor light. “That channel must be given notice and summoned… convert this House into a Court,” he said. Congress member K Rehman Khan and former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman said during his tenure, the then Chairman Bhairon Singh Sekhawat had taken suo moto action in a privilege case.