Rahul Gandhi has warned of an earthquake if he were allowed to speak in Lok Sabha. It is, as he intensified his Chinese torture, it was revealed that he had proof of personal corruption by no other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He told the media, "We have all the information" but he was not allowed to speak.
Is it pure swank, or does Gandhi have something really juicy with a lot of meat to it? It would be known only when he speaks up, and chances of that are receding more rapidly than a tsunami does. He is at pains to indicate that his is a real tsunami.
Let us grant him his contention.
But why is he not letting the cat out of the bag outside Parliament? The media shadows him and is ready to bite and he is known for shooting from the hip, sometimes with a script in hand — as we saw him in one debate in Parliament — and as he trashed his own party’s the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh.
Recall how he had arrived as a stage-managed surprise at the Delhi Press Club in 2013 and announced, "My opinion about the ordinance is that it is complete nonsense. It should be torn up and thrown away." It was an ordinance in the offing, to protect MPs convicted of misdemeanours. Despite the humiliation, Manmohan Singh, as his won't, quietly fell in line.
It cannot be as simple when he speaks against the prime minister who is from another party. Gandhi would be made accountable for each syllable he would utter if he were to address a press conference. He may become liable for libel. Though he has a battery of lawyers — P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi — who would be pleased to argue for him in court, he seems to want to avoid that.
With a good reason.
Speaking in Parliament provides a member with some immunity to enable performance of his or her duty. He enjoys the freedom of speech and expression. MPs cannot be called up to explain the content of whatever statement they make inside Parliament. This privilege is not extended to an MP in the premises of the Parliament but when he speaks during a sitting, including that of a committee of which he could be a member.
However, it is not a virtual licence. An MP has to conform to some rules like giving sufficient notice via the presiding officer — Speaker if it is Lok Sabha, the Chairman if Rajya Sabha — if specifics are to be mentioned. The member against whom references are to be made also has to be kept in the loop. The idea is not to leave room for unbridled accusations.
The entire idea is to ensure that a member, given the seriousness of purpose of Parliament, has the freedom to put forward his or her views without any fear on matters pending before the House. It is after all the highest law-making body in the country. It is part of the individual privilege an MP is conferred with, as much as the House itself is entitled to this privilege under the Constitution. However, except during an impeachment, there can be no reference to any judge of a court.
However, given the evolving — or evolved, should one say? — character of the Parliament where little is spoken, much less debated, and members instead of sitting and listening to another’s articulation, stand up, scream, shout slogans, even menacingly walk into the well and almost to the presiding officer’s chair, Gandhi may not manage to speak much even if he gets his chance to speak.
The moment he touches upon whatever he says is his information with proof, the treasury benches could create a ruckus. Much like the entire Opposition has been since the start of the Winter Session wasting the days which could have been used to discuss demonetisation. If the BJP had been in the Opposition, as past record till the previous Lok Sabha goes, would have perhaps done much the same.
Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 18:55:31 IST