Chandigarh, February 11
This week remained abuzz with politics around the word ‘expunged’ after speeches of high-profile MPs like Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge and Jairam Ramesh got removed from Parliamentary records by presiding officers of the two houses of the Parliament—the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
The portions of the speech of Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly facilitating the growth of industrialist Gautam Adani were expunged by Speaker Om Birla on Tuesday.
The expunging was notified around 12.30 AM on Wednesday with the Speaker invoking the rule on the need to authenticate the allegations made in the House. Lok Sabha sources said Gandhi did not provide evidence to support the allegations.
Meanwhile, a day later, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar deleted some portions of the speech of Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge for more or less the same reasons.
After parts of his speech were removed, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday took to social media saying “After @kharge-ji, it’s now my turn to have remarks expunged in Rajya Sabha, only because I asked the PM to authenticate his lies… SHRI JAIRAM RAMESH: Sir, the Prime Minister *made. (Interruptions.. Ask him to authenticate.. (Interruptions)... Venkaiah-garu, where are you??”
After @kharge-ji, it’s now my turn to have remarks expunged in Rajya Sabha, only because I asked the PM to authenticate his lies… 👇🏾— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) February 11, 2023
SHRI JAIRAM RAMESH:
Prime Minister *made. (Interruptions.. Ask him to authenticate.. (Interruptions)...
Venkaiah-garu, where are you??
Expunged—what does the Constitution say
According to the Article 105 in the Constitution of India, powers, privileges, etc of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament, there shall be freedom of speech in Parliament
(2) No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings
(3) In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and, until so defined shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of Section 15 of the Constitution (Forty fourth Amendment) Act 1978
(4) The provisions of clauses ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) shall apply in relation to persons who by virtue of this constitution have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, a House of Parliament or any committee thereof as they apply in relation to members of Parliament.
The bottom line is that while members have the freedom and are not liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything they say in Parliament, there are certain restrictions.
Their speech is subject to rules and the control of proceedings by respective presiding officers regarding the use of “defamatory/indecent/ undignified/unparliamentary words” on the floor of the House.
According to Rule 380 (“expunction”) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha “If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House”.
Once the decision is made expunged portions are highlighted/marked along a note saying “expunged as ordered by the Chair”
It is a common procedure and almost every other day some words or portions of the speech of some or the other MP, including from the ruling side, may find words/phrases deemed ‘unparliamentary’ from his or her speech removed from the Parliament records.
The Speaker and the Chairman have the last word in expunging words and expressions.
Now, several words in English and other Indian languages have been listed as “unparliamentary”.
In fact lists have been issued by the two houses saying what all is unparliamentary. It also includes some of the commonly used words and terms like ashamed, abused, betrayed, corrupt, drama, hypocrisy and incompetent.
Officials say some of the words may not appear unparliamentary unless read along with other words/ expressions or the context.
“Given the current political scenario and sharper attacks from both sides, words and expressions often acquire different meanings when used along with some other words. This is the reason the context in which a word has been used is important while taking the decision”, they explain
Words and expressions listed unparliamentary include anarchist, dictatorial, Khalistani, bloodshed, bloody, abused, cheated, childishness, corrupt, coward, criminal, disgrace, donkey, hypocrisy, mislead, lie, untrue, anarchist, lollypop, foolish etc
If a word deemed unparliamentary is used, the head of the reporting section sends it to the presiding officer citing relevant rules and precedence with the recommendation to expunge out.
Expunged and media
Once a word/phrase has been expunged, media cannot report them even though they may have been heard/aired during the live telecast of the proceedings.
In fact, live telecast of proceedings and social media has made the task lose some of its original intention
For example, most of what was expunged from the speech of Rahul Gandhi had already been circulated several times over by the television channels, social media and the websites.
The expunged portions from Gandhi’s speech were circulated to the media around 12 midnight on Tuesday, technically Wednesday.
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