Published Date: Oct 06, 2016 05:19 pm | Updated Date: Oct 06, 2016 06:27 pm
Don't politicise surgical strikes, Parliament can convene a secret session to demand proof
Since the Indian Army announced that it had committed surgical strikes on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control — resulting from the ceasefire of 17 December, 1971 (Line of Control) — on 29 September, 2016, there has been a relentless campaign in the Pakistani media to deny the existence of such strikes.
Based on these responses, Opposition leaders in India such as Congress' Sanjay Nirupam and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kerjriwal have publicly demanded that the government provide proof of such strikes by releasing the photographic and video evidence of the same to the public.
Needless to say, a public release of a video of these strikes, apart from creating the obvious national security concerns, will serve to do nothing but further inflame the situation at the Line of Control. Right now, the Indian government is playing a tactical game by allowing Pakistan to deny the existence of these strikes and enabling thePakistani governmentto save face by enabling them to try and make a tactical withdrawal
However, this does not mean that the Opposition does not have the right to demand proof of the strikes. In any right thinking democracy, the Opposition has the right to loyally demand proof of the government's claims. In fact, India's parliamentary democracy has express provisions to ensure that its politicians can be taken into confidence when it concerns matters such as national security.
India has two houses of Parliament. The Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States). The President is empowered under Article 85 to summon the Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister. This means Narendra Modi can advise His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee to call for a special session of Parliament to debate the surgical strikes that were recently conducted.
Rule 248 of the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha (House of the People) enables the Lok Sabha to go into a secret sitting if there is a request made by the Leader of the House, in this case the Prime Minister as he is a member of the Lok Sabha. When the Lok Sabha sits in secret, no stranger shall be permitted to sit in the galleries and the house shall sit in camera. No notes or records are also permitted to be kept of a secret sitting of the Lok Sabha. Interestingly though, Rule 248 permits members of the Rajya Sabha to observe the session from the gallery and that other members authorised by the Speaker may be permitted to sit in the Chamber of the House.
The government could use this Rule along with Article 84 to call for a secret session of Parliament to view the video evidence of the strike and confidentially have army officers brief parliamentarians, including Opposition members as to the nature of the surgical strikes that were carried out within the Pakistani sector of the LoC. Further, members of the Parliament can also be briefed on the ongoing situation at the LoC. In fact, if the government so chooses, the Parliament may also be kept in continuous session throughout the ongoing situation with Pakistan and continuous confidential briefings may be given in order to prevent the Opposition from politicising the situation and causing national disunity and discord.
After the briefing, both houses may debate the ongoing situation and pass a resolution in support of the armed forces and/or the government presenting a united front. This way, there will be no further inflaming or politicisation of the situation.
One remembers our prime minister kissing the steps of Parliament when he formed his government. It is only appropriate that in this — our nation's hour of crisis — the Parliament be taken into confidence.