On the first day of the winter session, parliament began on the same note as it has ended on the 11th of August 2021 with one difference. On Monday, 12 MPs from various opposition parties were suspended for their unruly behaviour during the monsoon session of the Rajya Sabha. The unruly scenes in the Rajya Sabha, in the monsoon session, brought the chairman of the Rajya Sabha to tears, in anguish and desperation he said “there is no act to convey my anguish as I have spent a sleepless night… I struggled to find our provocation,” referring to unruly members of the house. As this happened on the last working day of the house, it was logical to expect that the decision on the MPs conduct will be taken up in the upcoming winter session.
The motion to suspend the 12 MPs was moved by Prahlad Joshi, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs for the ‘unruly and violent behaviour’ of the members during the monsoon session of the parliament, which was passed by a voice vote. Under rule 256 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha, the chairman of the Rajya Sabha has the power to punish its members for disregarding the authority of the chair, wilfully obstructing the business of the house through acts of misconduct, contemptuous, unruly and violent behaviour and intentional attack on security personnel. Similar rules govern the conduct of the members of the Lok Sabha.
As there is no appeal against the revocation order, the 12 MPs stand suspended for the rest of the winter session. Opposition parties have strongly criticized the move. The leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Malikaarjuna Kharge said that “the MPs are suspended against the rules of the House”, demanding its immediate withdrawal. Naidu has refused to do so, saying the members “have not shown remorse”. Thus the current position is that the 12 MPs stands suspended for the remainder of the winter session.
Why such a move?
In the monsoon session of the parliament, amind the row over farm laws and pegasus snooping, members of the opposition were protesting vehemently. Despite, repeated warnings from the chair, some members stormed up to the well of the house, threw papers towards the chair, snatched and tore papers from the treasury benches, obstructed the minister of parliamentary affairs from entering the house, and pushed and dragged marshalls including a lady marshall. Repeated attempts by the chairman to calm the members and bring the house to order were in vain.
This is not the first time members are suspended for their misconduct in the house. There is a long list of such precedents from the 1960s onwards.
Parliament needs debate, not disruptions.
A lot of taxpayers money goes towards the functioning of the parliament. Not only this, MPs being representative of their people, has a moral obligation to put forward the demands and will of their people. Various parliamentary instruments and procedures are provided to the members of the house to make the government accountable to the people. Though there may be certain extra-legal limitations, these are for the MPs to discuss and remove. In the modern democratic system, such disruptions are the betrayal of peoples faith. According to PRS, estimates the productivity of the Rajya Sabha in the monsoon period was merely 28%, functioning for 28 hours out of 97. This implies that the taxpayer’s money required for the functioning of the parliament was wasted. Such disruptions also drastically decrease the time of debate, discuss and scrutinizing the government activities, thus making the very role of the parliament ineffective. The PRS data show that the average time taken by Rajya Sabha to pass a bill was 46 minutes and it took only 34 minutes on average to pass a bill in Lok Sabha. Thus, these disruptions only managed to create ruckus in the parliament, the government was still able to pass several bills. This not only lowers the dignity of the house but also the country loses precious time in holding the government responsible for its actions. It makes parliament virtually ineffective and redundant betraying millions who look forward towards their MPs as their voice.
It is high time that we start reimaging the way our public institutions ought to function. We need a series of corrective reforms to make our institutions respond to the will of the people. If the parliamentary devices to make government accountable ineffective the onus lies on the house to correct it and this will come only by meaningful debate and discussions and not by disruptions and not letting the house function. As it is said in the end one always has to come to the table to discuss. What we need today is issue-based politics, not politics based on opposition to everything and confrontation on anything related to government.