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Book of unparliamentary words guides ‘clean’ debate

There are phrases and words that are “unparliamentary”

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Published: January 1, 2012 1:17:02 am

The BJP and the Congress may accuse each other of murder (of democracy) and fraud (on Parliament) at press conferences and in TV studios,but inside the two Houses,they must watch what they say. There are phrases and words,literally in thousands,both in English and other Indian languages,that are “unparliamentary”.

The presiding officers — Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha — who are tasked with keeping the bad words out of Parliament’s records have for reference and help a bulky tome: Unparliamentary Expressions,published by the Lok Sabha Secretariat,whose 2004 edition runs into 900 pages.

The list contains several words and expressions that would probably be considered rude or offensive in most cultures; however,it also has stuff that is likely to be thought of as fairly harmless or innocuous.

Sometimes,the list appears to defy logic. Thus,while RJD supremo Lalu Yadav’s rustic humour and wit had the entire House in splits,to describe him as a “source of amusement” would have been unparliamentary.

And while there are nearly 40 members from the communist parties in the two Houses,“communist” is unparliamentary,going by the book.

Outside Parliament,opposition leaders accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of “scripting” the drama that ended with the adjournment of Rajya Sabha at midnight on Thursday. But inside the House,they couldn’t have referred to him as “ringmaster” without being pulled up. Obviously,referring to any member as an “animal” would have been unparliamentary.

The state legislatures are also guided mainly by the same book,which also draws heavily from unparliamentary words and phrases used in the Vidhan Sabhas and Vidhan Parishads of India.

“In 1999,when the book was compiled,references were taken from debates and phrases declared unparliamentary by the pre-independence Central Legislative Assembly,the Constituent Assembly of India,the Provisional Parliament,the first to the tenth Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,state legislatures and Commonwealth parliaments like that of the UK,” said G C Malhotra,the former Lok Sabha secretary general who headed the editorial board of the 2004 edition.

“Depending upon rulings of the presiding officers,new words and phrases continue to be added to the list at regular intervals,” Malhotra added.

Among words and phrases that have been deemed unparliamentary are “scumbag”,“shit”,“badmashi”,“bad” (as in ‘An MP is a bad man’),and “bandicoot”,which is unparliamentary if any MP uses it for another,but which is okay if he uses it for himself.

If the presiding officer is a “lady”,no MP can address her as “beloved chairperson”. The government or another MP cannot be accused of “bluffing”. “Bribe”,“blackmail”,“bribery”,“thief”,“thieves”,“dacoits”,“bucket of shit”,“damn”,“deceive”,“degrade”,and “darling”,all are unparliamentary.

MPs or the presiding officers can’t be accused of being “double minded”,having “double standards”,being of “doubtful honesty”,being “downtrodden”,indulging in “double talk”,being “lazy”,“lousy”,a “nuisance” or a “loudmouth”.

“Lazy fools”,“liars”,“bloody liar”,“bloody Chair” and “bloody fellow” are all unparliamentary.

An MP can’t be called a “racketeer”,a “radical extremist”,a “rat” or a “dirty little rat”. No member or minister can be accused of having “deliberately concealed”,“concocted”,of being of a “confused mind”,or being “confused and unintelligent”.

A Raja or Suresh Kalmadi are in jail,but were they to be present in the House,they could not have been called “corrupt”,and their alleged acts could not have been referred to as “corrupt practice”. No member,irrespective of whether he has a criminal record,can be called a “goonda” or “420”. The phrase “prajatantra ka balaatkaar” (rape of democracy) is a no-no.

The government,however incompetent,can’t be called “andhi-goongi”,or one of “Ali Baba aur 40 chor”. An illiterate MP can’t be called “angootha chhaap”,and it is unparliamentary to suggest that a member should be sent to the “ajayabghar” (museum).

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