The privileges committee of the Lok Sabha will call for evidence from petitioners who have brought a breach of privilege motion against envoy Ronen Sen over his reported reference to MPs as “headless chickens” while discussing the Indo-US nuclear deal. Only after that, it will decide whether or not to call Sen for his version of events.
After the MPs raised a furore, the Indian ambassador to the US clarified that he was talking about scribes when he made the “tactless” remark and tendered an unconditional apology first through External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament and later through the Ministry of External Affairs to the Lok Sabha Secretariat which had forwarded the CPM and BJP’s petitions to it for response.
The Ministry urged the matter be closed in view of his apology.
But in view of the MPs’ strong sentiments on the issue and his own conclusion that the matter needs to be examined, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is likely to inform the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that he is referring the matter to the privileges committee. Sources said he could not do it on Friday in view of repeated disruptions.
“According to the procedure adopted in a breach of privilege case, the panel begins by seeking evidence from petitioners,” said Kishore Chandra Deo, chairman of the privileges committee. Besides asking for evidence from petitioners - in this case the CPM and BJP members who gave the notice - the panel would also approach the newspapers that carried Sen's remarks. After examining the evidence, the committee may, if necessary, call Sen.
Whether Sen is asked to appear before the bar or not, it is the first time a diplomat is caught in a controversy involving MPs. “There is no precedence,” admits Deo who heads the 11-member committee.