Cong MP Rajani Patil suspended for filming RS proceedings

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New Delhi: In the first action against unruly MPs since Jagdeep Dhankhar took over as Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Congress MP Rajani Ashokrao Patil was on Friday suspended for the remainder of the Budget session for filming proceedings of the House.

Right at the start of the day, Dhankhar expressed displeasure at MPs not following rules and indicated that action would be taken against those who filmed the ruckus that opposition parties had created during the reply by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the motion thanking the President for her address to Parliament.

Later, Leader of the House and Union minister Piyush Goyal moved a motion seeking Patil’s suspension, after which the chairman asked the leaders of various political parties to air their views on the issue.

While most opposition MPs stated that the Rajya Sabha TV was biased in covering the proceedings of the House, some like Manoj Jha of the RJD wanted a House committee to look into the conduct before any action is taken.

In her defence, Rajani Patil said she was ready to be “rusticated” for not just this session but the entire year as she strongly felt that the BJP humiliates opposition MPs.

“The way the discussion is taking place, I feel if a mistake has been committed by someone unknowingly, if you give such a big punishment by taking name…Someone who comes from the family of freedom fighters…has no right to stay here,” she added.

“If you want, you can, for not just this session but for the rest of the sessions, rusticate me and I can even give resignation,” Patil said.

Dhankhar said Patil “is suspended for the remaining period of the current session and till there is a report available for consideration of the House from the privileges committee, I put this motion for consideration of this House”.

“Taking note of the sentiment of the House, it is hereby directed that all steps be taken that are applicable for a member who is under suspension and this will be effective during the remaining period of the current session, subject to a report being made available by the privileges committee for consideration of this House,” he said.

Dhankhar said a suggestion had been made that an immediate investigation by outside agencies be undertaken but added that he has categorically ruled it out.

“I said no, that idea does not occur to me…I said as chairman I will vindicate the trust of my electorate, we will deal with it in-house and not seek any outside assistance,” the chairman said.

When Modi was replying to the motion of thanks on the President’s address on Thursday, opposition MPs had trooped into the Well of the House, shouting slogans all through the 90-minute speech as they felt the questions they had asked remained answered.

Barring fleeting visuals of the opposition protest, Rajya Sabha TV, which is the only medium that provides visuals of House proceedings, maintained its focus on Modi, the treasury benches or the chair.

Ranjeet Ranjan of the Congress alleged there was partiality against the opposition members in the coverage of the Upper House proceedings by Rajya Sabha TV. The issues raised by the opposition are not shown, she alleged.

“There should be an enquiry as to whether such a video was made viral just to defame the opposition,” she said.

While Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said rule 256 may not apply here and it requires a lot of investigation before the chairman considers any further action.

“Obviously, there are factual matters, there would be some notice and response. There are no facts with anybody. The facts may be this way or that way,” he said.

Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party said at times, it seems that the Upper House is functioning like a small village panchayat that can decide to punish someone any time.

“Mountains are not going to fall. Similar incidents have happened several times earlier also. I pray to you not to take this incident seriously,” he said.

While moving the motion, Piyush Goyal said, “An unfortunate incident has happened yesterday where it has been found that on social media, we are seeing a video recorded in this august House, in a very very unfortunate manner showing senior members of Parliament in poor light.”

The video was unauthorisedly recorded by the member during the proceedings of the House which has been distributed through social media. It also shows members of the principal opposition in poor light, he said.

Any such action done by any member to record and distribute on social media is of “serious concern” and members of Parliament have already complained to the chairman about this incident, Goyal pointed out.

“This has brought disrepute to the entire august House and its members and the chair,” he said, adding that the incident happened despite several warnings given to all members even during the time of former chairman Venkaiah Naidu.

Goyal further requested the Chairman “to name the member who was involved in this act” and emphasised that appropriate action should be taken befitting the regards for the chair and the rules of the House in this case.

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the chair has the authority to decide the matter but urged it not to take decisions based on pressure from the treasury bench.

He suggested that after an enquiry, if the individual was found guilty, she could be warned or made to understand instead of taking any harsh action.

“First (there can be) enquiry, and then after enquiry, if the member is guilty, you can warn, if it is the first time, you can forgive, you can also warn….So, I request you not to pursue this matter further,” Kharge said.

John Brittas of the CPI(M) said the coverage of House proceedings by Rajya Sabha TV was one-sided, and Santanu Sen of the TMC termed the official broadcaster partial.

Jawhar Sircar (TMC) also called for ensuring a greater degree of fairness and education about parliamentary proceedings.

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( With inputs from )

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