Rajya Sabha chairman talks tough on disruptions

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) Suggesting suspension of live telecast of Question Hour in the upper house of parliament, Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President M. Hamid Ansari Sunday said there is a need to correct the “collective behaviour” responsible for frequent disruptions.

The vice president, in an all-party meeting here, said he called the meeting in “agony and distress” as the disruptions caused by members in the house were adversely affecting the public perception of parliament.

“Since one possible objective of disruptions is to seek instant publicity through live telecast of proceedings, we may dispense with simultaneous telecast of the Question Hour and instead have it on a deferred basis,” official sources quoted the vice president as having said.

Ansari also said that the members creating disruption by rushing towards the chairman’s podium or otherwise indulging in “grossly disorderly behaviour” should be named in the records, the sources said.

He suggested that consultations should be initiated for incorporation in the rules a provision of automatic suspension for a specified period of a member creating grave disorder in the house. He said a similar rule existed in Lok Sabha, they said.

“The sad, and deeply disturbing, truth is that such adjournments have been forced with disturbing frequency. If this practice goes unchecked, public esteem for parliament as the highest forum of our democracy will be adversely affected leading, eventually, to questions about its very relevance,” said Ansari.

The vice president said expressions like “competitive hooliganism” and “collective shame” were used to describe the behaviour of unruly members by media and this reflected poorly on the dignity of the house of elders and brought it down in public esteem.

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed each other for the disruptions.

“Parliament is not a forum for demonstration, it is a forum for discussions. But the opposition BJP has been irresponsible… If the BJP wishes to make disruptions part and parcel of parliament, let there be a change in the rule,” Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar told a TV News channel.

BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile, said the allies of ruling party were disrupting the house and not the opposition.

“We feel sad that parliament is not functioning, but 99 percent disruptions are by the allies of the ruling party members. Some day it was the Sri Lanka issue, some day it was the SP (Samajwadi Party), and some day the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party)… it’s the ruling party’s allies” that are rushing towards the presiding officer’s podium, he said.

He also said that parliament was not just for debate but seeking answers from the government on questions raised by the opposition.

“Parliament is not a debating society, you need to have a response from the government… If the government does not respond, opposition has to take the course of disruption,” Naidu said.

The first half of the budget session saw disruptions over several issues, losing valuable time and only 11 out of 68 listed bills could be passed. The loss of time also forced the appropriation bill to be passed without debate in the Rajya Sabha.

Some unruly scenes were also witnessed in the upper house when some members tried to vandalise a microphone on the podium when Congress member Renuka Chowdhary was in the chair.

The second half of the budget session starts Monday.

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