TAMIL NADU

Treasury benches committed breach of privilege: panel member

MADURAI NOV. 10. It was the Treasury benches, and not the journalists, who committed a breach of privilege, said a dissenting member of the Privileges Committee.

N. Nanmaran, MLA, who is also the CPI (M) whip, told reporters here today that he had already raised his voice, at a meeting of the committee, against taking action against The Hindu and Murasoli and the DMK MLA, Parithi Ilamvazhuthi.

He suggested that action be dropped against Mr. Ilamvazhuthi, as a case relating to the matter was already before court.

Opposing any action against the journalists, he had recalled the remark made by the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, during the 125th anniversary celebrations of The Hindu held in Chennai in September, that journals were the ``voice of the voiceless'', and even suggested that no action by the legislature should weaken the Press.

The Editor of The Hindu should have been given an opportunity to appear before the Privileges Committee, as he had offered to do so if it was not satisfied with his explanation.

As the committee's decisions were only ``recommendatory in nature'', they should have been tabled for a detailed discussion in the House before a final decision was taken, Mr. Nanmaran said. But the Government failed on this count.

Also, the Opposition was not given an opportunity to express its views on the privilege issues, as the matter did not find a place on the agenda circulated to the members the previous day. Nor was any paper tabled mentioning the move when the proceedings began in the afternoon on November 7, said Mr. Nanmaran.

In fact, the MLAs were ``taken by surprise'' when the Speaker suddenly ordered closure of the doors shortly before the issue was taken up in the evening. The resolutions on the alleged breach of privilege were passed at the fag end of the day's proceedings by voice vote, without the Opposition being allowed to express its views.

Even now the Government could revoke the punishment against the journalists and the MLA, Mr. Nanmaran said recalling that as action against the then MLA, R. Tamaraikani, was dropped by the then Speaker, P.T.R. Palanivel Rajan, during the DMK regime.

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