Our live Parliament sessions can make a Hollywood sci-fi director feel ill at ease. One can find virtually everything flying in our Parliament – ranging from bottles to microphones to footwear... and perhaps human beings too in the near future! A glance through Lok Sabha TV or even YouTube footage of our Parliament sessions would be enough to provide evidence of the extent of lack of basic culture and education that our honorable members of Parliaments possess. What comes as an utter shame and embarrassment, especially for the electorate, is the manner in which their elected leaders represent their cause! Starting from holding footwear in their hands, to throwing abusive words, and resorting to physical violence, this is how Parliamentarians resolve their concerns in the temples of the world’s largest democracy!
Last year, the Women’s Reservation Bill was disrupted to such a level that seven of our MPs had to be suspended for the remaining sessions. So much so that the MPs went to an extent of snatching and tearing the bill into pieces – the MPs then uprooted the Chairman’s mike and climbed on the table to mark their protest! And mind you, all this our publicly elected representatives did for the women of our country! In another case, the Parliament was not allowed to function for seven days at a stretch, as both the houses witnessed huge chaos. Congress members were found rushing to the aisles and chanting slogans than discussing and sorting the issues in question. In 2008, the Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee adjourned the house when MPs went into a verbal clash which was so severe that even the speaker stated the situation as follows: “The Parliament has become a public street. I can only express my agony. It is a murder of democracy” Amidst all these, how can one forget the shameful incident of the cash-for-votes scam; or the session in 2008 where MPs went absolutely berserk and threw microphones and chairs at each other! The disruptions and adjournments during the 2010 budget session cost the taxpayer about Rs 180,000,000 and wasted 115 working hours – Lok Sabha lost 36 per cent of its time and Rajya Sabha lost 28 per cent.
Such incidents of blatant barbarism and disgraceful behavior not only speak volumes about our ill educated political class but also bring a huge disgrace to the house. Disrespecting the houses and colleagues is not only unwarranted behavior but also indicates that our elected representatives are bereft of any sensible and logical discussions! And given the fact that our sessions are aired live on national TV and covered by global media, such acts are not just insulting and shameful for us as Indians, but also highlight our third-grade value systems and the way we solve issues that are of national importance.
There is no doubt in the fact that this should stop; and that too immediately. And for that, the Indian Constitution should make provisions and ban such Members of Parliament and assemblies and further criminalise such offences. If required, the Election Commission should not only temporarily suspend their political career but also should prosecute them legally. Any act of violence, use of non parliamentary (read: abusive) words and irrational walkouts should be brought under the ambit of legislation and further should be criminalized. We should urgently introduce laws regarding contempt of Parliament and censure (serious steps taken against misconduct or negligence of duty) in order to tighten the noose of these wild horses. Such laws will not only make them behave properly in the house but would also put the much required cap to the unlimited immunity they enjoy. Most of democratic and developed nations take such issues seriously and have legislation for the same. These laws are enforced when a member deliberately misleads the Parliament (presenting false information to the Parliament knowingly) or influences a Member of Parliament by bribery or threats.
In Canada, under censure, sanctions can be imposed on Parliamentarians, including imprisonment; at the same time, in Australia, under the contempt of Parliament rule, a fine of $5,000 and six months’ imprisonment can be imposed. Similarly in Hong Kong, contempt of the Legislative Council is seen a criminal offence; in the United Kingdom, it leads to arrest of a Member of Parliament who may be suspended or expelled. Similar is the case in Latin American countries and other mature democracies. Even usage of words that offend the dignity of the houses leads to prosecution and civil action in many countries like Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom and many others.
All in all, to clean up the dirt from the Parliament and bring back some basic decorum, we have to ensure that these ‘kind’ of people never get elected. And knowing that it is almost an impossible task as politics is getting increasingly criminalized, it is imperative that we reduce the immunity given to our MPs and bring in stricter codes of conduct enforceable by law! Unfortunately, our houses look nothing less than a circus. It is time to show them their real place!
- 01 April 2011 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics