Tackling breach of privilege is not throttling free speech: Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar

Mr. Dhankhar alludes to disruptions during sessions in both Houses of Parliament, while explaining the breach of privilege mechanism; he also urges students to be wary of and ‘neutralise’ those who ‘play politics’

February 28, 2023 09:20 pm | Updated 10:05 pm IST - CHENNAI

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar during the inauguration of ‘Centre for Innovation’ at IIT Madras, in Chennai on February 28, 2023.

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar during the inauguration of ‘Centre for Innovation’ at IIT Madras, in Chennai on February 28, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

“Hauling up someone for breach of [House] privilege is not throttling of [right to freedom of] expression,” Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar said in Chennai on Tuesday.

“The House has to preserve the dignity of 140 crore people so that it does not become an akhada (arena) or a dumping ground for any information, unverified, allegatory, reckless, to set narratives,” he said at the inauguration of the Centre for Innovation (CFI) in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras. Mr. Dhankhar added that in the House, there would be “full flow of information and expression.... but it comes with one tag. You must authenticate the information. You must take responsibility for the information and if that turns out to be wrong, we have a mechanism in Parliament [called] ‘breach of privilege’.”

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The mechanism is evoked to throttle dumping of recklessly made unauthenticated information, misusing the platform of Parliament, he explained.

Mr. Dhankhar also said he was reflecting on some editorials. Article 105 of the Constitution protected Members of Parliament from criminal litigation, a great privilege. But this privilege was not without responsibility and accountability. “It does not give the member license to share anything on the floor of the House,” he explained.

The Vice-President said youngsters must rationally question persons who “play politics” and “they must be combated and neutralised”.

Mr. Dhankhar was alluding to issues such as the BBC documentary India: The Modi Question and the George Soros issue that led to disruptions in both Houses of Parliament.

He urged students to take pride in the country’s accomplishments, asking them to look at the scale at which things are being executed currently. Around 150 million gas connections had been given and 220 crore beneficiaries had been administered COVID vaccines and also received digital certification, he added.

He was surprised that happenings in Parliament did not evoke a response from students. “If the Constitution’s founding fathers could decide on contentious, divisive issues in the Constituent Assembly, why should members now indulge in sloganeering and shouting?” he asked.

He termed the students “warriors of 2047” and said IIT Madras Director V. Kamakoti along with the faculty “will be creating the warriors who will shape the destiny of India in 2047”. He congratulated the Institute’s incubation cell that has hosted over 300 start-ups valued collectively at ₹40,000 crore, and praised the alumni for their support.

Mr. Kamakoti said that in the past 14 years, nearly 6,000 students had benefitted from learning various skills at the CFI and nearly 1,000 student projects had been completed. As many as 50 start-ups trace their roots to the centre, he added.

Mr. Dhankhar later interacted with students who asked him for his views on start-ups and indigenous innovations.

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