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“… In the event of grave disorder occasioned by a member coming into the well of the House or abusing the Rules of the House persistently and wilfully obstructing its business by shouting slogans or otherwise, such member shall, on being named by the Speaker, stand automatically suspended from the service of the House for five consecutive sittings or the remainder of the session, whichever is less.”
That was Rule 374(A) which the Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, invoked when she banned 25 members of the Opposition from attending 5 sittings of the Parliament’s ongoing Monsoon Session. The Speaker said they were guilty of “grave disorder” for disrupting the Session continuously since its inception 2 weeks ago. The suspension is the first for the current Lok Sabha, and is a rare incident in the Parliament’s history.
The Opposition was disrupting Parliamentary proceedings with demands for the stepping down of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in relation with the Vyapam scam and the Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj scandal.
The Congress party’s President, Sonia Gandhi, called the suspension “a black day for Indian democracy”. In retaliation, Congress leaders have been protesting outside Parliament wearing black bands and black badges. 8 other Opposition parties have joined them in boycotting the Session for the next 5 days to rally against the Speaker’s decision.
Public reaction to the suspension has ranged from congratulatory to appalled. Some say the suspension is necessary due to the doldrums of the previous 2 weeks when Parliament did nothing but shout at each other. Others call it undemocratic and claim that the Speaker is a puppet of the BJP.
What we know is that the Monsoon Session till now has been a travesty – a disaster filled with childish name-calling, disturbances and failures. What we also know is that the Speaker is empowered by the Constitution to suspend MPs. And what we all want is for our politicians to stop being irresponsible and debate crucial legislations like the Land Acquisition Bill before the Session is over so that the nation can benefit.
This is not about supporting the BJP or condemning Congress: this is about solving the logjam that has paralyzed Parliament for over 2 weeks, costing taxpayers a lot of money and the country a lot of time. Right after the suspension of the MPs, Parliament passed the SC/ST Amendment Bill, though in the absence of any credible Opposition.
Parliament is about reaching a consensus; but if disruptions continue for weeks on end, maybe suspensions are not uncalled for. We need to see beyond the lies and chaos of politics and understand the central point: we need politicians who can debate in a civil, decent manner, who can uphold the dignity of the Parliament and defend democracy.
Again, this is not about supporting a party: this is about ensuring that the Parliament makes the best use of its time. As such, we appreciate the Speaker for her step and hope that the House understands the responsibilities it shoulders and lives up to these responsibilities by ensuring the smooth functioning of the Parliament in the future. And we hope that when the suspended MPs rejoin the Lok Sabha in a few days they will not ridicule democracy by behaving immaturely but voice their complaints through educated, civilized and cultured debating.