Politics Over Parliamentary Rules

The Parliament of India, its sanctity, its relevance, its role and its jurisdiction have all been in the news since the past few days. I must say that the Parliament is being wrongly portrayed by some individuals as an institution which prohibits its members from actively engaging with the people. Some have been using parliamentary provisions as a political tactic to destabilize the ruling alliance and some are citing parliamentary rules and regulations as a blanket to dodge all criticism and justify their actions or deeds. I just want to bring certain contemporary issues to light in order to expose the way in which the Parliament in itself is getting politicized and is being used as a weapon.

Recently the Congress gave the debate organized by Team Anna at Jantar Mantar a miss. I think it was a wise decision. Team Anna has turned itself into a primarily anti-congress organization; it campaigned against the party in the Hisar by-polls and has hugely ridiculed the Congress Party, its leaders and ministers. Since the debate was organized by Team Anna at a place which was by no means neutral it was justified on the Congress’s part to give it a miss. But the Congress should have been brave enough to state this in public. They should have come out and said we don’t believe in engaging in a discussion at a place where we are bound to get jeered down, be ridiculed and have our opinions unheard. Instead of doing that the Congress Party came out with immature and absurd arguments to justify its action. It lambasted at those parties who shared the stage with Team Anna and accused them of disobeying the Parliament by discussing the bill at Jantar Mantar. This is an extremely laughable point. Yes, the Parliament is the ideal place for debating on legislation, it’s the Parliament’s prerogative but that doesn’t stop individuals from debating on an issue or a bill on a public stage. All of us are entitled to do that. Politicians from all parties come and debate on issues on television channels. In fact parties appoint certain spokespersons to do this task. When they go and debate on issues on television channels, isn’t it then an insult to the Parliament? We all respect the supremacy of the Parliament in terms of lawmaking but similarly it is everybody’s right to have a discussion on any bill at any place. This does not amount to disobeying the Parliament.

The BJP, the party which is most responsible for repeated stalling of the Parliament moved a privilege motion against Home Minister P Chidambaram accusing him of violating the Parliament’s rules by issuing a statement to the press when the Parliament was in session instead of coming up with a clarification on the floor of the House. I think the BJP needs to indulge in some introspection. They are the ones who never allow the Parliament to function, they’ve not even allowed Mr Chidambaram to speak during this session, no member from their party acted in a legitimate and dignified way by actually addressing a question to Mr Chidambaram during the question hour and asking for an explanation for him on the controversy as it should have been rightly done. All they did was baseless sloganeering and ensuring that the House did not transact any business. The rule says that the Government cannot announce any policy decision when the Parliament is in session. It doesn’t stop ministers from issuing clarifications on certain controversies by means of the press and this is what Home Minister P Chidambaram did. There is nothing wrong in this. When you’ll not allow the Minster to speak in the House then what else he’ll do?

Secondly, his clarification on a controversy is not a policy decision and therefore he has committed no wrong. In fact privilege motions need to be moved against the whole of the BJP for repeatedly stalling the Parliament and for purposely searching for issues in the name of which they can disrupt Parliament. We also have Team Anna with us. A bunch of arrogant and rigid individuals who resort to extra constitutional blackmailing and pressurizing, who call parliamentarians fraud, who ridicule the very concept of politics in India, who try to thrust upon a legislation on the Parliament, accusing the Government of disobeying Parliament by dishonouring the Sense of the House etc. Let me clear one thing. The Parliament never passed any resolution in the previous session. It just came up with a Sense of the House which is not a resolution, it’s merely an extra-constitutional exercise conducted by the House on certain matters of public interest. A statement is issued at the end of the debate to sum up all that has happened and the final statement issued by a senior minister or a concerned minister of the Government is mostly a generalization of the entire debate. Sense of the House has no legal mandate. It is not binding on the Parliament. I think it is inappropriate on the part of individuals like Team Anna, who try to pressurize Parliament, to accuse the Government of disobeying it. The institution of the Parliament in itself is being used to satisfy certain vested interests. No individual organization or party should be allowed to mislead the nation by means of citing incorrect and nonexistent parliamentary norms and conventions. Let’s not turn Parliament along with its rules and regulations into a controversial issue.

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