By Sunil Garodia
Om Birla, the Lok Sabha Speaker, made a very pertinent observation during the course of a debate in Parliament. Birla said "it is very easy for all of you to demand 'expunge this expunge that', but why should the need to expunge arise at all? Once a remark is given, it is already in the public domain. Therefore, we should all speak keeping the dignity of Parliament in mind." One is sure that all Speakers must have felt like this most of the days but the state of public discourse in India, including that in Parliament, is such now that Birla must be feeling the need for restraint by the members every hour of the proceedings.
The matter was regarding Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan who protested that he was not being allowed to speak. To this, BJP MP Rama Devi, who was in the chair, asked him to ignore everyone and speak to the chair. Azam Khan then said that he likes her very much and it is his wish to keep his eye locked with her. The treasury benches erupted and wanted the objectionable remarks expunged. While the urge to be sarcastic is very strong in good speakers, especially politicians, they should also realize that there are some places, especially houses like the Parliament and the state assemblies, where one must keep one's anger and sarcasm in check and choose words carefully. But can such niceties be expected from persons who can even throw chairs and footwear at each other despite the proceedings being telecast live?
The argumentative Indian always wants to be heard himself but does not want to hear others. Members of Parliament and legislative assemblies have a habit of using the power of sound to drown out the voice of others. But that, in essence, is like trying to say that since we are in power, we will not even allow your views to be recorded. If Azam Khan was allowed to speak on the subject, the digression would not have happened. What are the people's representatives, who should be like icons to our youth, trying to teach our children? Indiscipline, insolent behaviour, disrespect for rules and disrespect for one's opponents? One feels that along with the oath they take at the time of becoming members of Parliament, each MP must be made to take a test on Parliamentary procedures and rules, including the test of language to be used during discussions, and must pass it before the oath is administered. Also, there must be some kind of punishment, like not being allowed to speak on any issue for 3 days for the first offense with the period increasing after every subsequent offense, to deter the MPs from breaching decorum in the house. They make laws for the nation so there must be a law to govern their behaviour.