New Delhi: Government was on Wednesday forced to tender an apology in Lok Sabha as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and his junior Manoj Sinha were absent when the House took up a question relating to their Ministry and the Speaker issuing a stricture that such instances should not recur.
The incident happened during Question Hour, when Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took up the issue of 'Go-India Smart Card', an initiative of the Railway Ministry, for discussion.
As neither Prabhu, nor Sinha were present in the House, Congress members led by Mallikarjun Kharge strongly protested and wanted to know why the Ministers were absent when the question relating to their Ministry was listed for business in the House.
The Speaker initially said the Minister (Sinha) should be called as this was not fair and he should not leave the House when there is a question listed against his name.
As Congress members continued to protest, Mahajan said that she had limited options. "What should I do? Should I hang him? I said it should not have happened," she said.
Kharge said this was not for the first time that a Minister was absent when matters related to their Ministries were taken up.
"You were here day before yesterday. When there is a discussion, Cabinet Minister should be present. That day also the Minister was not present, but we kept mum. Because they requested that such things will not happen again.
"To run the House, the Ministers do not come but you keep telling us that we should follow the rules. But they do not go by the rules. There is a question but the Cabinet Minister is not present, the MoS is also not present. Its repercussion, reflection will be on you (Speaker) and us (opposition) but not on them (treasury)," Kharge said.
The Speaker then said that she was informed that the Railway Minister would not be present. If the cabinet Minister is not in the House due to some work, the MoS is there.
"He had given reply to the first question. He can give the reply for the second question too. There is no such rule. He can give reply under the rules. But it is a fact that the way he has left the House, till the complete question hour comes to an end, normally we do not reach fifth or sixth question, he has left under that impression.
"But today I want to say that this should not happen and the Ministers should sit here till the end. We can't say whether the question will come or not. This is not fair. It should not happen again," she said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said it is a mistake and Sinha was very much in the House and he might have thought that the next Railway Ministry question will not come up.
"But it is not correct. I am sorry for what has happened. I want to put it on record, on behalf of the government, I am sorry. It will not be repeated. If the Speaker wants, she can postpone the question also. I have no problem in that," he said.
Naidu said he would ask the Railway Minister to answer that question again as that has been the practice earlier too.
"But, as rightly observed by the Speaker, the Minister should be in the House whether the Question comes up or not," he said.
Updated Date: May 04, 2016 18:00 PM