We cannot call ourselves a democracy if there is no freedom of speech in Parliament: Congress

Party terms as ‘brazenly undemocratic’ the decision to expunge portions of speeches by Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge

February 13, 2023 06:21 am | Updated 09:47 am IST - New Delhi

 Congress Party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. File

Congress Party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. File | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Renewing the attack on the BJP government and the presiding officers of both Houses of Parliament, the Congress on Sunday said that recent decisions of expunging portions of speeches by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former president Rahul Gandhi are brazenly undemocratic as also the suspension of Rajya Sabha MP Rajani Patil without following the due procedure.

Speaking at a press conference in Delhi, party’s national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi accused the government of moving towards establishing “an authoritarian dominance in Parliament by terrifying, terrorising, tormenting and tyrannising the opposition”.

No unparliamentary words were used, he said, in both Mr. Kharge and Mr. Gandhi’s speeches. “It is amusing and supremely ironical to note that expunged portions even include questions asked,” he noted.

If there is no freedom of speech within the Parliament, then it would be difficult to call ourselves democracy, he stressed. “The Speaker in Lok Sabha and Chairperson in Rajya Sabha are constitutional office holders and the custodians and defenders of freedom of speech inside the Houses which is a fundamental pillar of our democracy, especially within the Parliament. Without their robust shield, the spirit of healthy parliamentary discussion and debate will perish,” he added.

Ms. Patil’s suspension for allegedly recording a view of the House proceedings during the February 9 address of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha does not follow the duly laid down procedures, the Congress spokesperson said. The Rule 257 of the Upper House Rules invoked for this was ex-facie, textually inapplicable. It is part of a set of Rules empowering suspension in respect of “persistent and wilful” obstruction of House proceedings by a member, in a situation where such conduct makes the running of the House impossible for the Chair. But Prime Minister spoke for nearly 90 minutes. Ms. Patil’s actions did not stall his speech,” he pointed out. The Rajya Sabha member, Mr. Singhvi said, was suspended without a show-cause notice or any inquiry.

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