Suspension of MPs

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    In News

    • Recently, 12 Opposition MPs have been suspended for the rest of the Winter Session.

    About

    • The members were suspended for alleged unruly conduct towards the end of the monsoon session in August. 
    • Opposition members stormed the Well of the House during the passage of the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021.

    Rule 256

    • The members were suspended for the rest of the winter session under Rule 256 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha. 
    • The rule has been used 13 times in the past to suspend 26 members (some multiple times) since 1962. 
    • Membership of two Parliamentarians was terminated under the same rule in 2010.
    • The Opposition said the rule is for ongoing sessions, not to be used in an earlier one.

    Powers of Presiding Officers to deal with MPs disrupting proceedings

    • MPs are required to adhere to certain rules of parliamentary etiquette. 
    • For example the Lok Sabha rulebook specifies that:
      • MPs are not to interrupt the speech of others, 
      • maintain silence and 
      • not obstruct proceedings by hissing or making running commentaries during debates. 
    • Newer forms of protest led to these rules being updated in 1989
      • Now, members should not shout slogans, display placards, tear up documents in protest, and play a cassette or a tape recorder in the House. 
      • Rajya Sabha has similar rules. 
    • To conduct the proceedings smoothly, the rulebook also gives certain, similar powers to the presiding officers of both Houses.
      • The presiding officer of each House can direct an MP to withdraw from the legislative chamber for grossly disorderly conduct. 
        • The MP then has to remain absent from the proceedings of the House for the remainder of the day. 
      • The presiding officers can also name an MP for persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House. 
        • In such a case, usually, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister moves a motion for suspending the offending MP from the service of the House. 
        • The suspension can last until the end of the session.
    • In 2001, the Lok Sabha rule was amended to give the Speaker one additional power. 
      • A new rule, 374A, empowers the Speaker to automatically suspend an MP for a maximum of five days for disrupting the business of the House. 
      • In 2015, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan used this rule for suspending 25 Congress MPs.

    Disruption and Suspension

    • The first instance occurred in 1963
      • A few Lok Sabha MPs first interrupted President Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and then walked out while he was delivering the joint address to both Houses. Lok Sabha ended in reprimanding these MPs. 
    • In 1989, 63 MPs were suspended from Lok Sabha on the discussion of the Thakar Commission report. 
    • More recently in 2010, 7 MPs were suspended from Rajya Sabha for snatching the women’s reservation bill from the minister. Since then, MPs have raised slogans, used pepper spray in the House and displayed placards.

    Reason for Suspension

    • It is the role and duty of the Speaker of Lok Sabha (and counterpart in Rajya Sabha) to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly. 
    • Rule 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business states that the Speaker, if is of the opinion that the conduct of any Member is grossly disorderly, may direct such Member to withdraw immediately from the House.

    Challenges

    • Lack of opportunities: 
      • In most cases, disorders in the House arise out of a sense of frustration felt by members due to lack of opportunities to make his point
    • Planned offences:
      • More difficult to tackle is planned parliamentary offences and deliberate disturbances for publicity or for political motives.
    • Quality of bills:
      • Lesser debates will eventually deteriorate the quality of the bills and would even question the representation of Public’s will in the law.
    • Hinder development:
      • Generally, the Government at Centre is not present in States so the splitting of agendas of Centre and States will eventually harm the overall development of the Country.

    Way Ahead

    • The majority party is responsible for governing and should take other parties into confidence. The Opposition should play a constructive role in Parliament and be allowed to put forward its views and express itself in a dignified manner.
    • But the enforcement of the supreme authority of the Speaker is essential for smooth conduct of proceedings. However, it must be remembered that her job is to run the House, not to lord over it.
    • The solution to unruly behaviour has to be long-term and consistent with democratic values. 
    • A previous Speaker had ordered that television cameras be focussed on the demonstrating members, so that people could see for themselves how their representatives were behaving in the House.

    Source: IE