Par House Can’t Be Used for Dharnas, Protests :RS; Oppn Criticises Govt; Birla Says Such Notices Issued for Yrs

Demonstrations, dharnas, or religious ceremonies cannot be held in the precincts of Parliament House, a circular by the Rajya Sabha secretariat has said, drawing ire from the Opposition on Friday even as Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla insisted that such notices were being issued for years. The Rajya Sabha secretariat has said that the circular has not been issued for the first time and such advice has been reiterated from time to time. They said such a circular is issued normally ahead of every session of Parliament. The secretariat also provided copies of the similar circular issued during the Congress-led UPA regime in 2013 and said such circulars are being issued for many years now.

The new bulletin, which has been issued by Rajya Sabha Secretary General P C Mody ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament beginning July 18, said the kind cooperation of members is solicited. “Members cannot use the precincts of the Parliament House for any demonstration, dharna, strike, fast, or for the purpose of performing any religious ceremony,” the bulletin said.

Reacting strongly to the circular, the opposition parties attacked the government. Congress general secretary and chief whip of the party in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh was among the first ones to take to Twitter to attack the government. “Vishguru’s latest salvo – D(h)arna Mana Hai!,” he tweeted, sharing a copy of the circular issued on July 14.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury also took to Twitter to criticise the government and alleged that these are attempts to muzzle the voice of democracy. “What a farce. The attempts to muzzle the soul of India, its democracy and its very voice will fall flat,” he said.

After the opposition uproar over the circular, Speaker Birla told reporters that political parties should refrain from making allegations without ascertaining the facts. “It (such circulars to members) is a process. This practice has been carrying on for a long time,” he said, adding that this has been going on since 2009 and even before. “My appeal to all political parties is that in the Parliament or state assemblies they should abstain from making charges and counter-charges without ascertaining the facts. Our endeavour should be to strengthen democratic institutions, as all of them work with accountability,” Birla said, adding that the effort is to ensure that all members freely but responsibly express their views.

“I urge all political parties should abstain from making allegations on any democratic institution without any basis,” he also said. In a tweet in Hindi, Yechury also said,”the more useless the government, the more cowardly it is. Democracy is being mocked, by issuing such dictatorial orders. Protesting in the Parliament House Complex is a political right of the MPs which is being violated.” Another opposition leader Manoj Jha of RJD shared the circular and sought the immediate intervention of the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker.

“Bringing a Parliamentary Bulletin to say that we cannot hold a dharna inside the Parliament. It is an attempt to take parliamentary democracy to the grave. We demand that the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman should intervene immediately,” he said in a tweet in Hindi. TMC’s Mahua Moitra took a swipe at the Prime Minister for holding a religious ceremony “on top of the new Parliament building”.

“Btw Honourable MP Varanasi performed a religious ceremony on top of new Parliament Building just four days ago,” Moitra said in a tweet. Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi while sharing the circular on Twitter asked, “Will they come for Parliamentary Questions next? PS: Hope this isn’t an unparliamentary question to ask.” Opposition members have in the past demonstrated inside the Parliament complex and have also staged protests near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi there. The circular on dharnas comes amid opposition outrage over another bulletin listing out certain words as “unparliamentary” which was issued by the Lok Sabha secretariat. The circular on the usage of some terms in Parliament has also drawn flak from the Opposition which claimed that every expression used by them to describe how the BJP was destroying India has now been declared unparliamentary.

However, the Lok Sabha Speaker on Thursday said no word has been banned for use in Parliament but will be expunged on a contextual basis. Members are free to express their views while maintaining the decorum of the House, he said. He also said that every year words are added to the list of unparliamentary words and these are such words and expressions that have been declared unparliamentary in Parliament, state legislatures and in some commonwealth countries in the past. He, however, said that the Chair’s decision on whether to expunge the words or expressions is final.

A new booklet by the Lok Sabha Secretariat said on Wednesday that the use of terms like ‘jumlajeevi’, ‘baal buddhi’, ‘Covid spreader’, ‘Snoopgate’ and even commonly used words like ‘ashamed’, ‘abused, ‘betrayed’, ‘corrupt’, ‘drama’, ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘incompetent’ will henceforth be considered unparliamentary in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

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