House panel on security defunct for five years, Opposition MPs worried

They also allege bias in allotment of visitors’ gallery passes

Published - December 14, 2023 01:49 am IST - New Delhi

A visitor jumps in the Lok Sabha chamber from the public gallery during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on December 13, 2023.

A visitor jumps in the Lok Sabha chamber from the public gallery during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, on December 13, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Many Opposition members have been raising concerns over the security arrangement at the new Parliament building since it started functioning in September with a Special Session to pass the women’s reservation Bill.

The MPs had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar seeking a thorough probe into the incidents of political sloganeering from the visitors’ gallery during the Special Session.

Also read | Home Ministry sets up committee to probe Parliament security breach 

In the wake of Wednesday’s security breach, Opposition MPs said that despite their requests, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Security in Parliament Complex had not been reconstituted during the 17th Lok Sabha.

The MPs have also been complaining against alleged “political bias” in providing visitors’ gallery passes and the increased presence of private security guards on the Parliament premises, replacing the dedicated security staff of Parliament and other Central police forces.

Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Ray, who was a member of the joint committee during the 16th Lok Sabha, said, “Speaker Sumitra Mahajan used to head the panel. I don’t know if this committee is functioning now or not.”

DMK MP Tiruchi Siva, who was a member of the earlier panel, said he had apprised the Rajya Sabha Chairman about the committee not being formed. “The panel functions under Lok Sabha Speaker. Had it been functional, we would have raised the presence of private security people and their role in Parliament security. The committee should be reconstituted immediately and these issues like Wednesday’s security breach should be discussed,” he said, adding that the Centre was not even ready to make a statement in Parliament on the issue. “We demanded a statement by Home Minister Amit Shah on the issue and it was rejected,” Mr. Siva said. The Opposition walked out of the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday afternoon seeking an explanation from the government.

The new Parliament has a five-tier security arrangement for visitors. The entry is restricted through the reception near the Rail Bhavan. Before reaching the reception, the visitors are checked by the security staff on Raisina Road, near the Rail Bhavan. Before entering the reception, all electronic gadgets, wallets, and bags of visitors are to be deposited in a cloak room. The visitors are checked by the security at the reception and after verifying the passes again, they are checked once again near the entry gate of the new building. Visitors for the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha visitors’ galleries are sent through two different gates. At each gate, the visitors are checked by the Parliament security staff and other security personnel. Finally, at the gate of the visitors’ gallery too, the visitors are checked and verified.

The Opposition members also alleged that there was political bias in allotting visitors’ passes. “For Opposition MPs, the pass issuing cell of the Parliament security will not release passes for more than two or three people for a slot of one hour in the gallery. But BJP MPs can bring any number of people they want. I and other MPs had raised this issue with Mr. Birla. He had promised to intervene, but there was no change in the situation,” said Congress MP T.N. Prathapan.

Earlier, the MPs had written to Mr. Dhankhar on the issue of sloganeering. “It is imperative that the incident be thoroughly investigated to identify how such a breach of security and decorum was possible within the confines of the Rajya Sabha. The individual responsible for the disruption must be held accountable for their actions. Any MP found to be involved in facilitating this incident should also face appropriate consequences,” Congress MP Jairam Ramesh had said in the letter.

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