'Parliament cannot abdicate responsibility to respect my right': Rahul writes to LS Speaker again
Both Houses of Parliament have not been functioning for more than a week as the BJP and government are adamant about seeking an apology from the Congress MP.
Published: 21st March 2023 04:06 PM | Last Updated: 21st March 2023 06:16 PM | A+A A-
NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi again wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, on Tuesday, requesting his permission to respond to the allegations raised against him by four BJP ministers in Parliament. This comes days after he said that ‘if Indian democracy was functioning, he will be allowed to speak in the Parliament’ at a press conference.
Rahul is in the eye of a storm over his “Indian democracy under siege” remarks. Both Houses of Parliament have not been functioning for more than a week as the BJP and government are adamant about seeking an apology from the Congress MP. At least four Union ministers have sought Gandhi’s apology over his remarks during his speech at Cambridge University where he said that Indian democracy was under attack and alleged that mikes were often switched off in Parliament when Opposition members speak.
In his letter dated March 18, the Wayanad MP said that he is seeking permission to speak in Lok Sabha under the conventions of Parliamentary practice.
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“I had written to you on March 17th seeking your permission to respond to totally baseless and unfair charges hurled at me by senior Ministers in the Lok Sabha. I am making such a request again. I am seeking this permission under the conventions of Parliamentary practice, the constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice, and Rule 357 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha,” he said in the letter.
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Rahul attended Parliament on March 16, for the first time after the controversy broke out over his ‘democracy’ remarks. However, as the House got adjourned after the ruckus, the Congress leader did not get an opportunity to respond to the allegations of ‘maligning India on foreign soil.’
Later in a press conference, Rahul said that he met the Speaker Om Birla and sought an opportunity to respond to the allegations, Birla was non-committal. “Four ministers have spoken against me in the Lok Sabha. It is my right to respond to them. If Indian democracy is functioning, I would be able to say my piece in Parliament,” he had said.
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In the letter, the Congress leader further elaborated on Rule 357, which provides "personal explanations".
“Under Rule 357, a member may, with the permission of the Speaker, make a personal explanation although there is no question before the House, but in this case, no debatable matter may be brought forward, and no debate shall arise,” it said.
He further said “Members of the ruling regime have made scurrilous and defamatory claims against me both within and outside Parliament. As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly allow me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for ‘personal explanations’.”
The former Congress President also elaborated with an instance of former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad invoking Rule 357.
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“I have taken the liberty of annexing an example where Hon'ble MP (and then Minister) Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, invoked the Rule to explain comments made by Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia about him in Parliament,” he said.
“Furthermore, there are several examples available on the Lok Sabha Digital Library which show that this right isn't restricted to responding to statements made within Parliament but extends to allegations made in the public domain as well,” said the letter.
“Parliament like any other institution is bound by the Rules of Natural Justice contained in Articles 14 and 21 of our Constitution. They are a guarantee against administrative arbitrariness and ensure that every person has a right to be heard in a cause with which they are concerned,” he said.
Stating that Parliament cannot abdicate the responsibility to respect the right to speak, Gandhi said that as he will be away in Karnataka and Kerala on March 20th and 21st, the Speaker should allow him to speak at the earliest.
“Surely, you would agree that Parliament of all institutions cannot abdicate the responsibility to respect this right when it doesn't suit the ruling regime. I hope the above satisfies your query and that you will allow me a right to reply in the Lok Sabha at the earliest,” he said.