House rules and the weapon of expunction

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Source– The post is based on the article “House rules and the weapon of expunction” published in The Hindu on 14th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Parliament and state legislatures- Conduct of business

Relevance– Rules and procedures of Parliament

News– Recently, portions of the speeches made by some Opposition politicians in Parliament were expunged.

What are some facts about the motion of thanks by the President?

This is customary practice. The Constitution does not provide for any such motion, except direct that each House shall discuss the matters contained in the address. This is a practice adopted from the British Parliament.

When such a motion is discussed, MPs are generally permitted to speak on any matter of importance. Speeches are generally political and the Chair never insists on relevance.

MPs have the right to critically scrutinise the performance of the government.

Under the Rules of the House, the Prime Minister replies to the debate in both Houses.

What are rules governing allegations against ministers and MPs in Parliament?

Article 105 of the Constitution confers on members, freedom of speech in the House and immunity from interference by the court for anything said in the House.

Freedom of speech in the House is the most important privilege of a Member of Parliament. It is subject only to the other provisions of the Constitution relating to the running of the House

and the House Rules.

Rule 380 of the Rules of procedure of the Lok Sabha and Rule 261 of the Rules of the Rajya Sabha give the power to the presiding officers of these Houses to expunge any words used in the debate which are defamatory, unparliamentary, undignified or indecent.

Once Expunged they do not remain on record. If anyone publishes them thereafter, they will be

liable for breach of privilege of the House.

Rule 353 of the Lok Sabha regulates the procedure if MP make an allegation against a

fellow MP or an outsider. Under this Rule, the MP is required to give “adequate advance notice” to the Speaker as well as the Minister concerned.

On receipt of advance notice under Rule 353, the Minister concerned will conduct an inquiry into the allegation and come up with the facts. allegation which necessitates advance notice should be of a defamatory or incriminatory nature.

The rule does not  apply to an allegation against a Minister in the government because the Council of Ministers is accountable to Parliament.

However, a Member of Parliament needs to follow a certain procedure while making an allegation against a Minister. Such a procedure has been laid down by Speakers in the past. Making an allegation against a Minister or the Prime Minister is considered to be a serious matter. Therefore, MP who makes an imputation against a Minister of the government should be

sure about the factual basis of the allegation, and he must take responsibility for it.

A careful reading of the Rules of the House reveals that expunction can be done only when the allegations mentioned are of defamatory or incriminatory character.

Under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, any statement with respect to the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public function or his character is not defamation. If such a statement is made in the House against a Minister who is a public servant, it does not come within the ‘mischief’ of Rule 353 or Rule 380.

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