Recently, 12 Opposition MPs have been suspended for the rest of the Winter Session for disruptions in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session.
The reason for their suspension was “their unprecedented acts of misconduct, contemptuous, unruly and violent behaviour and intentional attacks on security personnel” on the last day of the Monsoon Session.
So, what had happened in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session?
- Passage of the farm laws
- Parliament passed the Bills without scrutiny by a committee.
- Alleged Pegasus hacking
- Leader of the House Piyush Goel accused Opposition MPs of attacking the security staff and demanding a special committee to investigate the incident.
What powers do presiding officers have to deal with MPs disrupting proceedings?
- MPs are required to adhere to certain rules of parliamentary etiquette.
- For example the Lok Sabha rulebook specifies that MPs are not to interrupt the speech of others, maintain silence and not obstruct proceedings by hissing or making running commentaries during debates.
- Newer forms of protest led to these rules being updated in 1989. Now, members should not shout slogans, display placards, tear up documents in protest, and play a cassette or a tape recorder in the House.
- Rajya Sabha has similar rules. To conduct the proceedings smoothly, the rulebook also gives certain, similar powers to the presiding officers of both Houses.
- The presiding officer of each House can direct an MP to withdraw from the legislative chamber for grossly disorderly conduct.
- The MP then has to remain absent from the proceedings of the House for the remainder of the day.
- The presiding officers can also “name” an MP for “persistently and wilfully obstructing the business” of the House. In such a case, usually, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister moves a motion for suspending the offending MP from the service of the House.
- The suspension can last until the end of the session.
- In 2001, the Lok Sabha rule was amended to give the Speaker one additional power.
- A new rule, 374A, empowers the Speaker to automatically suspend an MP for a maximum of five days for disrupting the business of the House.
- In 2015, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan used this rule for suspending 25 Congress MPs.
How often have disruptions led to suspension of MPs?
- The first instance occurred in 1963. A few Lok Sabha MPs first interrupted President Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and then walked out while he was delivering the joint address to both Houses. Lok Sabha ended in reprimanding these MPs.
- In 1989, 63 MPs were suspended from Lok Sabha on the discussion of the Thakar Commission report.
- More recently in 2010, 7 MPs were suspended from Rajya Sabha for snatching the women’s reservation bill from the minister. Since then, MPs have raised slogans, used pepper spray in the House and displayed placards.
How difficult has it been to solve the problem of disruptions?
- Former President K R Narayanan, who also chaired Rajya Sabha from 1992-97, explained the difficulty involved: “In most cases, disorders in the House arise out of a sense of frustration felt by members due to lack of opportunities to make his point, or clear his chest of grievances of the people that move him or out of the heat of the moment. They are perhaps easier to deal with. What is more difficult to tackle is planned parliamentary offences and deliberate disturbances for publicity or for political motives.”
- In 2001, during a national conference in the Central Hall of Parliament organised on the issue of disruptions, different political leaders summed up their positions.
- The majority party is responsible for governing and should take other parties into confidence.
- The Opposition should play a constructive role in Parliament and be allowed to put forward its views and express itself in a dignified manner.
- Debate is central to democracy, and therefore there should be more debate and fewer disruptions.
- “the reluctance and procrastination” of the treasury benches to face discussions as a cause for disorder in Parliament.
- The support of the presiding officers to help the Opposition in raising issues uncomfortable to the government.
- In a democracy, power is transient and that a party ruling at the Centre may not be in control in the states.
- The need for cordial and respectful relations between the Opposition and ruling parties.
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