Team Anna member and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday asked MPs not to be over-sensitive to criticism, and instead reflect upon the public perception about Parliament and its members.
In his six-page interim reply to the breach of privilege notice served to him by Rajya Sabha, Bhushan sought either the tape or the transcript of the TV programme, which contained the alleged derogatory remarks made by him against MPs.
Along with Bhushan, Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, who have also been served similar notices, have sought details of what they actually said.
“I would urge the House and its members not to be so sensitive about criticism, and instead reflect upon why public perception about Parliament and its members has come to be what it is, and explore ways and means to improve the functioning of our democracy,” Bhushan wrote.
“My comments obviously were not intended to refer to all members of Parliament, but only to those who may have come to believe that being elected gives them the right to act as they please in Parliament, even against the wishes of the people,” Bhushan stated.
“I would like to state that I do believe that several members of Parliament have acquitted themselves with great honour and dignity… The country can be justly proud of their conduct,” he said.
Bhushan, who was a member of the joint drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill, questioned the notice, saying parliamentary privileges are not a ground on which any restriction can be imposed on the exercise of the right to free speech.
“There have also been instances of members taking bribes for asking questions and even voting in Parliament for important issues, like a vote of no-confidence. It is also a known fact that several MP’s are in jail for serious offence,” he stated.
Bhushan argued that the law of defamation is a sufficient safeguard to protect the reputation of MPs. He said any attempt to use privileges to stifle freedom of speech of citizens, who criticise MPs, would only reinforce the feeling that there is a “serious problem” in the functioning of Parliament.