How Are Speech Of MPs Expunged From Parliament Record?

How Are Speech Of MPs Expunged From Parliament Record?

February 14, 2023 - 7:11 am

Limits To Free Speech In Parliament Wielded By Weapon Of Expunction

The recent expunction of some of the Opposition lawmakers' comments from Parliament is a debate on a decision made by the Speaker (in the case of Congressman Rahul Gandhi's speech) and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (in the case of Congress President and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge's speech). Gandhi's comments from Parliament were removed, which Congress harshly criticised, and said that "democracy was incinerated" in Lok Sabha.

What is the Issue ?

Rahul Gandhi charged that the BJP administration has shaped its foreign policy to advance Adani's commercial interests during the motion of thanks to the President's address. Gandhi's questions have also been removed. Likewise, opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge brought up a related matter in the Parliament over Rajya Sabha chairperson Jaydeep Dhankar's choice to strike some of his comments relating entrepreneur Gautam Adani's rising riches to the Centre. Gandhi made up to 18 comments about Adani, all of which were deleted. Kharge also informed Dhankhar that his remarks should not have been withdrawn because they were neither "unparliamentary or accusatory" in nature.

What is the Motion of Thanks?

According to Article 87, the President must address both Houses of Parliament in attendance at the start of the first session following each general election to the House of the People and at the start of the first session of each year to advise Parliament of the reasons for its summons. Such an Address is known as a "special address," and it also appears every year. This speech must be delivered to both Houses of Parliament when they are together. Although the Constitution does not specify a motion of this kind, it does state that each House shall debate the topics covered in the address. This procedure was taken directly from the British Parliament.

What are Unparliamentary Words?

The Lok Sabha secretariat has released a large volume of literature titled "Unparliamentary Expressions." The book includes words that are unparliamentary and derogatory in most nations, but it also includes somewhat harmless words that are still seen as undignified. For instance, the Lok Sabha Secretariat's classification of some commonly used phrases as unparliamentary in a handbook caused a significant outcry last year. According to a new booklet from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, words like "jumlajeevi," "Baal buddhi," "Covid spreader," and "Snoopgate," as well as more common expressions like "ashamed," "abused," "betrayed," "corrupt," "drama," "hypocrisy," and "incompetent," were deemed unparliamentary in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Expunged—what does the Constitution say?

The removal of certain words, phrases, or sentences from documents is a pretty standard practice that is carried out in accordance with established guidelines. The Presiding Officer of the House has the authority to decide which portions of the proceedings should be thrown out. According to Article 105(2) of the Constitution, Inside the House, however, MPs are not allowed to say whatever they wish. MPs' speech is governed by the rules of parliament, the members' "common sense," and the speaker's supervision of the meeting. These checks make sure that members of the House cannot use "defamatory, obscene, undignified, or unparliamentary phrases." 

Media on Expunction

Even if they might have been heard or broadcast during the live webcast of the events, once a word or phrase has been deleted, the media cannot report on it. In fact, social media and live telecasts of events have caused the task to lose some of its original purpose. For instance, the majority of the information that was removed from Rahul Gandhi's address had already been shared widely on television, social media, and websites. Around midnight on Tuesday, or technically Wednesday, the media received the portions of Gandhi's address that had been deleted. 

The Way Forward on Expunction

The axe of expunction, however, can only be used when the claims mentioned therein are of a defamatory or incriminating kind, as is clear from a close reading of the House Rules. Thus, it is evident that before using the weapon of expunction, it is necessary to determine whether the speech contains claims that are either defamatory or incriminating, or whether it just contains critical remarks (which a Member of Parliament has the right to make). Additionally, it must be ensured that the members of the House's freedom of speech is not unnecessarily restricted.