Parliament security breach | 14 Opposition MPs suspended from House amid face-off

Government has accused INDIA bloc parties of “politicising a grave national security issue,” while Congress described the suspension as “murder of democracy”

December 14, 2023 03:44 pm | Updated 10:58 pm IST

Suspended Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien protests at Parliament premises on December 14, 2023.

Suspended Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien protests at Parliament premises on December 14, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

Escalating the face-off with the Opposition parties, that have been demanding a statement from Home Minister Amit Shah over the Parliament security breach, as many as 14 Opposition MPs were suspended on Thursday for the remaining days of the winter session of Parliament for disrupting the proceedings.

The winter session that began on December 4 is scheduled to end on December 22 and has six working days.

While Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien was the only one to have been suspended from the Rajya Sabha, as many as 13 Opposition MPs, including nine from the Congress and the DMK’s Kanimozhi, were among those who were suspended from the Lok Sabha.

Though DMK’s S.R. Parthiban was also named and suspended, the government withdrew his name after the Congress’ Karti Chidambaram and the BSP’s Danish Ali pointed out that the DMK MP was not even present in the House and was away in Chennai.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had moved two separate resolutions in the Lok Sabha to suspend 14 Opposition members for showing “utter disregard to the House and showing disrespect to the House”.

The second resolution had mentioned Mr. Parthiban’s name. “I have requested the Speaker to drop the name of the member as it was a case of mistaken identity,” Mr. Joshi said and added the members were punished for brining placards into the House.

Referred to panel

In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar had first suspended Mr. O’Brien for “gross misconduct and defying the Chair” and later, the House moved a resolution to recommend the TMC leader’s case to the Privileges Committee.

Calling the security breach as “unparalleled,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, on behalf of the INDIA bloc, wrote to Mr. Dhankhar to allow a discussion on it under Rule 267, one that entails voting.

The government accused the Opposition of “politicising a grave national security issue”, while the Congress described the suspension as “murder of democracy” and accused the BJP of reducing the Parliament to being “a mere rubber stamp”.

Mr. Kharge, in a post on X, asked if it was a “crime” to ask the Home Minister to make a statement and claimed that the suspension had “draconian shades of dictatorship”.

The Opposition parties have been demanding a statement from the Home Minister on the security lapse and questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the issue.

News agency PTI, quoting sources, reported that the Prime Minister, in a meeting with some Ministers in the Parliament complex, underlined the sensitivity of the issue of security breach and advised his colleagues to not engage in any political squabbling with Opposition leaders over it.

Stepping up their attack on the Home Ministry and Mr. Shah for the major security lapse, the Opposition members demanded action against BJP MP Prathap Simha, who had recommended the passes for the two intruders.

Also read: Suspended Lok Sabha MP count nearly doubles during NDA terms | Data

‘Need to be careful’

Defence Minister and Deputy leader of the Lok Sabha, Rajnath Singh, pointed out that instances of visitors jumping into the Lok Sabha chamber had taken place even in the old Parliament building.

“All have condemned it. We need to be careful... we should not give passes to those who create disturbances,” Mr. Singh said in the Lok Sabha amid protests.

Speaker Om Birla also asserted that it is his office that is responsible for the security of the Parliament complex. “It is our jurisdiction,” Mr. Birla said as he said that he was willing to again discuss the security breach issue with the Opposition leaders.

When the members did not heed to Mr. Birla’s request to allow the Question Hour to function, the House was adjourned till 2 p.m. Post lunch, Mr. Joshi moved a resolution to suspend five Congress members — T.N. Prathipan, Hibi Eden, S. Jothimani, Ramya Haridas and Dean Kuriakose.

Also read | Parliament Winter Session Live Updates Day 9

The House was then adjourned till 3 p.m. and when it resumed, 9 more were suspended. They included V.K. Sreekandan, Benny Behanan, Mohammed Jawaid and Manickam Tagore from the Congress, the CPI(M)’s P.R. Natarajan and S. Venkatesan, the CPI’s K. Subbarayan and the DMK’s Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Parthiban.

Soon after their suspension, the members sat on an impromptu protest even after the House was adjourned.

In the Rajya Sabha, soon after the House had met at noon after an adjournment, Chairman Mr. Dhankhar warned Mr. O’Brien against his unruly behaviour and asked him to leave. When the TMC leader did not relent, he allowed Leader of the House Piyush Goyal to move a motion to suspend Mr. O’Brien under Rule 256.

The TMC leader did not move and continued to register his protest inside the Rajya Sabha chamber. Subsequently, the issue of his conduct was referred to the Privileges Committee and the panel has been asked to submit a report in three months.

“This is a murder of democracy. The BJP government has reduced Parliament to a rubber stamp. Not even the pretence of a democratic process is left,” Congress leader K.C. Venugopal said in a post on X.

In the Lok Sabha, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister also recounted the instances of security breaches in over past four decades. On April 11, 1974, one person shouted slogans from the visitors’ gallery, besides carrying two pistols, one object looking like a bomb and some pamphlets, he said. On July 26, 1974, a person was caught with a dagger while trying to enter the visitors’ gallery and on November 26 of the same year, a person carried an explosive and a dagger to the visitors’ gallery. The Minister added that on January 9 and 10, 1999, two persons jumped from the public gallery to the Lok Sabha chamber.

“In the past also, many such incidents have taken place. I am not comparing past incidents and defending Wednesday’s incident but we have to learn lessons from the past,” he said.

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