Recent instances of heated exchanges in Parliament have brought back recurring questions around “unparliamentary” speech and conduct.
What are the checks available on MPs’ speech?
- Despite Article 105(2) of the constitution, Whatever an MP says is subject to the discipline of the Rules of Parliament, the “good sense” of Members, and the control of proceedings by the Speaker.
- These checks ensure that MPs cannot use “defamatory or indecent or undignified or unparliamentary words” inside the House.
Rules in this regard:
- Rule 380 (“Expunction”) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha says: “If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House.”
- Rule 381 says: “The portion of the proceedings of the House so expunged shall be marked by asterisks and an explanatory footnote shall be inserted in the proceedings as follows: ‘Expunged as ordered by the Chair’.”
What are Unparliamentary expressions? Who decides on it.
- There are phrases and words, literally in thousands, both in English and in other Indian languages, that are “unparliamentary”.
- The Presiding Officers — Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairperson of Rajya Sabha — have the job of keeping these bad words out of Parliament’s records.
- For their reference and help, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has brought out a bulky tome titled ‘Unparliamentary Expressions’, the 2004 edition of which ran into 900 pages.
- The list contains several words and expressions that would probably be considered rude or offensive in most cultures; however, it also has stuff that is likely to be thought of as being fairly harmless or innocuous.
- The state legislatures too are guided mainly by the same book, which also draws heavily from unparliamentary words and phrases used in the Vidhan Sabhas and Vidhan Parishads of India.
Examples of unparliamentary speeches and behaviour
- Among the words and phrases that have been deemed unparliamentary are “scumbag”, “shit”, “badmashi”, “bad” (as in “An MP is a bad man”), and “bandicoot”, which is unparliamentary if an MP uses it for another, but which is fine if he uses it for himself.
- If the Presiding Officer is a “lady”, no MP can address her as “beloved Chairperson”.
- The government or another MP cannot be accused of “bluffing”. “Bribe”, “blackmail”, “bribery”, “thief”, “thieves”, “dacoits”, “bucket of shit”, “damn”, “deceive”, “degrade”, and “darling”, are all unparliamentary.
- MPs or Presiding Officers can’t be accused of being “double minded”, having “double standards”, being of “doubtful honesty”, being “downtrodden”, indulging in “double talk”, being “lazy”, “lousy”, a “nuisance” or a “loudmouth”.
- The government can’t be called “andhi-goongi”, or one of “Ali Baba aur 40 chor”. An illiterate MP can’t be called “angootha chhaap”, and it is unparliamentary to suggest that a member should be sent to the “ajayabghar” (museum).