A week after three BJP MPs emptied out currency notes of Rs 1 crore on his table, Lok Sabha secretary general PDT Achary doesn’t know what to do with the money, now kept in a locker in his office. How do you deal with wads of currency being waved in Parliament anyway?
To try and find an answer, Achary and his staff dug up some old records: 20 years ago — in the days before 24/7 nationally televised cable television — a briefcase full of currency notes was flung on a table in the Lok Sabha, exactly as it happened on July 22.
“It turns out that the MP in question had to take away the money after the speaker disallowed him,” Achary told HT. Since that didn’t happen this time, Achary will remain a crorepati for several days.
“Until the honourable speaker takes a decision on what to do with, the money will remain in my custody,” he said.
The waving-cash image may be seared into India’s memory, it isn’t the first (former railway minister even brought a
revolver to the Lok Sabha in 1983 to draw attention to a threat to a colleague), it is unlikely to be the last.
MPs are neither frisked nor their baggage screened before being allowed inside. With India now under terrorist attacks, some concede it may be time to change. “Last week’s incident is a wakeup call,” said Sachin Pilot, Congress MP.
“It’s time we reconsidered exemptions from security screenings given to MPs.” Congress MP Nikhil Kumar, a former Delhi Police Commissioner, has a different take.
“MPs pass through two barriers — one while entering the compound and another while entering the building,” said Kumar. “The metal detectors will raise an alarm if anything contraband is being carried. But currency notes will not raise an alarm of course.”
But MPs rarely pass through the metal detector. A few wear or flash the identity card issued to them. Though the handbook for them asks MPs to “bring with them identity cards… for officers have strict orders not to allow strangers into Parliament House,” in practice security staff who recognise MPs allow them to bypass metal detectors.
Bags carried by other visitors are scanned, but MPs don’t do that — though they are only exempt from frisking. “MPs were never frisked and a parliamentary committee during the 13th Lok Sabha formalised it (in 2002),” said a parliamentary official, requesting anonymity. “MPs and officials above the level of joint secretary are exempted from frisking.”
“Screening got stricter for the rest after the terrorist attack on Parliament in 2001, but not for us,” concedes a veteran MP.
MPs are expected to follow rules and norms — related to security or otherwise — voluntarily. MPs are advised to check their bags and even the baggage cabins of their vehicles before coming to Parliament House to stop anything being planted on them.
If MPs defy these rules or norms, there isn’t much the security staff can do.