In letter to Om Birla, Rahul Gandhi cites 2015 case to give reply in Lok Sabha

By, New Delhi
Mar 21, 2023 01:14 AM IST

In his letter, Gandhi said the BJP was throttling the right to speak and said it would be fair if he was given time to speak too.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has cited a 2015 incident in a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to seek time to reply to the allegations levelled against him by at least four ministers and other BJP leaders in Parliament.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)

His letter, sent to Birla on March 18, cites an incident in which charges were levelled against Ravi Shankar Prasad, then minister for communication and information technology, in the Lok Sabha. As Prasad was not present in the House, the then Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed the minister to respond to charges the next day.

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In his letter, Gandhi said the BJP was throttling the right to speak and said it would be fair if he was given time to speak too. The letter, according to a Congress leader, has been vetted by a top legal expert of the party.

For three consecutive days, Gandhi has not been able to speak in the House. Birla, however, appealed to MPs daily to stop disruptions and assured that Opposition MPs will be allowed to raise their issues.

On Monday, Birla said, “This House belongs to you. It is my endeavour that all of you sit down and allow the House to run. The country wants to see that the House is running smoothly. I want to appeal to both sides. Those who have submitted adjournment motions, all of them will be allowed to speak.”

He also reminded the members that “everyone has the right to speak, but according to the rules; all members have to speak according to the rules”, as the din continued. Later the House was adjourned.

While the chances of passage of non-financial bills are slim, the government’s immediate business is to pass the Budget of the Union territory of J&K, as it is under President’s rule. Minister of state Arjun Ram Meghwal told the House that the pending business includes “discussion and voting on demands for grants for 2023-24 of rural development, panchayati raj, tribal affairs, tourism and culture, and health and family welfare”. After the guillotining of outstanding demands for grants in respect of the Union Budget for 2023-24, the government will bring the Finance Bill, 2023 for discussion and passage.

The Rajya Sabha continued to witness disruptions on Monday as the government and the Opposition stuck to their stands, the latter seeking a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe against the Adani Group following allegations of irregularities and the government demanding an apology from Congress MP Rahul Gandhi.

Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said he received 14 notices under Rule 267 to suspend the listed business to take up issues raised by the members, but these were not taken up. As members from both sides shouted slogans, the House was adjourned.

Speaking outside the House, Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Pramod Tiwari said despite several attempts by the Opposition to raise the issue of a JPC, it has not been accepted.

“Why is the government shying away from setting up a JPC? The BJP is running away from a JPC and is finding ways to divert attention and is not allowing Parliament to function,” he said.

The BJP’s V Muraleedharan responded that the Congress MP needs to apologise for “denigrating” India. Addressing the media, he said, “When the Congress leader who goes abroad and speaks, denigrating India’s democracy, judiciary and institutions, they should feel ashamed, at least apologise to the people and society. It is their stand that has created such a situation (the Parliament logjam),” he said.

He also said Gandhi’s allegations of not being allowed to speak were unfounded. “I don’t think there was any such instance when he wanted to speak and the Speaker did not allow him. When the House is adjourned no one gets to speak,” he said.

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