Rajya Sabha disrupted, Derek O’Brien escapes suspension

Leader of the House Piyush Goyal moved a motion for Derek O’Brien’s suspension

August 08, 2023 11:36 am | Updated August 09, 2023 01:35 am IST

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar reacts as Trinamool member Derek O’Brien comes into the well of the House on August 8, 2023. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar reacts as Trinamool member Derek O’Brien comes into the well of the House on August 8, 2023. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Rajya Sabha on August 8 witnessed high drama over the suspension of TMC MP Derek O’Brien with the Chairman first announcing that he has to withdraw from the House, but later said the motion to suspend him was not put to vote and hence he could continue to attend the proceedings.

Mr. O’Brien was allowed to attend the House proceedings after Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said he has taken a “far-sighted” decision to not allow voting on the motion to suspend him which did not fructify. The Chairman had earlier announced the suspension of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader for his unruly behaviour in the House after leader of the house Piyush Goyal moved a motion in this regard.

Several members, including Pramod Tiwari (Congress), urged the Chair to take a lenient view on Mr. O’Brien, but the Chairman asked why he should show leniency. “If Mr. O’Brien would have been suspended from the House for this session, do you think he would have been allowed to enter the House again?” the Chairman said, adding that for him taking action against any member is a matter of pain.

“I have ended my own pain, no one has done that. If the motion was passed fully, Mr. O’Brien could not have entered the House again.

“He was allowed to enter the House as the motion against Mr. O’Brien could not fructify. I did not take that sense of the House deliberately. It is my obligation to ensure to an extreme degree that the House runs. I have been extremely accommodative whenever the TMC MP has come to my chamber and requested him,” Mr. Dhankhar said.

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At this, Mr. O’Brien objected, saying he never went to Mr. Dhankhar’s chamber between 11 am and 12 noon on Tuesday, following which the Chairman asked members if the House if such a behaviour should be allowed. “Do you approve of this conduct?,” the Chairman said.

Earlier in the day, the Chairman asked Mr. Goyal to move the motion against the TMC MP.

Mr. Goyal said he wished to move a motion for the suspension of Mr. O’Brien for the remainder of the session for continuously disrupting the proceedings of the House and disobeying the Chair.

“Derek O’Brien is suspended for the remaining part of the current session for his unruly behaviour unbecomming of a member today, shouting slogans from the well of the House, thereby disregarding instructions of the Chair and for bringing disrepute to the House,” the motion read by Mr. Goyal said.

The Chairman then announced, “Derek O’Brien is directed to leave the House. He is suspended for the rest of the session”, as he announced adjournment of the House till 12 noon.

When the Upper House of the Parliament met again, he sought views of the members on whether they approved the behaviour of Mr. O’Brien.

Mr. Goyal later said he regretted on behalf of the member and urged the TMC member concerned to also express regret.

Mukul Wasnik and Jairam Ramesh raised the issue of Manipur, saying the government has not found a middle path on the matter.

The Chairman asked members to reflect on the “indecorous” behaviour of the TMC MP in the House.

“You have heard what the MP said a while ago and every word was a challenge to the Chair, every word was outside the realm of decorum. I want all of you to reflect on every word he said, the manner in which he said, the gesture in which he said, the language he employed, the challenge he threw, and what you have to say on that,” Mr. Dhankhar said.

When asked to reflect on Mr. O’Brien’s behaviour, Mr. Ramesh said the Chair is supreme and he is the custodian of the House. Senior Congress leader Digivijaya Singh used the words of former leader of opposition Arun Jaitley and said “Going in the well was stated as a legitimate opposition strategy and the right of the opposition to protest”.

The Chairman replied, “... after deep immediate deliberation, I did not take the sense of the House earlier. If I had really fructified the process, Derek O’Brien would have been out of the House. In my wisdom, I thought I must not take to that conclusion at that point of time. But when I gave him an opportunity here again, the conduct is for all of you to see and I need your guidance.” Goyal said this is not the first instance that such behaviour of O’Brien has been seen in the House and he has been requested several times that whatever he wants to say he can do so in a more courteous manner.

“But thumping of desks, talking loudly to the Chair and being discourteous to the Chair is certainly the behaviour nobody in the House approves of and nobody desires to endorse.

“I appreciate the magnanimity shown by the Chair that despite my moving the motion, you did not go to the extreme step. With full respect to the magnanimity that the Chair has shown, I would urge the members to agree to maintain decorum,” Goyal said.

“I think the member Derek O’Brien, the least that can be expected of him is that he expresses regret to the Chair, particularly when the Chair has felt hurt on this issue,” he also said.

The Chairman said the situation is being watched by everyone and asked K C Venugopal to guide the House. The Chairman said he least expected him of such behaviour.

“I know a member may have got into a state of mind, there may be pressure, there may be heated arguments. Would you kindly consider and then respond that out of deliberation, I did not culminate the proceedings by taking sense of the House. After having taking that step, if I again urge the member, he has only improved on the ferocity of behaviour,” he said.

Mr. Venugopal said the anger was not aimed at him but came out of the mental pain in the House.

“The way the leader of the house moved the motion exactly indicates a pre-planned move to suspend him. He is totally pained sir. It is not against you, sir. He is totally pained... It was a pre-planned move to suspend Derek O’Brien... that has pained him,” Mr. Venugopal said.

Mr. Ramesh said, “I have no hesitation that O’Brien did not fully appreciate what you had been saying. He did not refer to your meeting today, he was referring to your meeting always.” “On behalf of Mr Derek O’Brien, he was mistaken. He was wrong. On his behalf, I am saying that he was wrong,” he said.

Before adjourning the House, the chairman said, “This is not the way to run the House. I am yet to conclude on Derek O’Brien.”

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