New Delhi: On the first day of Parliament’s winter session Monday, 12 Opposition MPs were suspended from the Rajya Sabha for their alleged unruly behaviour in the monsoon session. They have been suspended for the duration of the winter session.
There is no precedent for suspending MPs for actions taken during a previous session.
Opposition parties issued a joint statement condemning the action, saying the suspension was “unwarranted” and “undemocratic”. They said the floor leaders of the parties in the Rajya Sabha will meet Tuesday to “deliberate on the future course of action to resist the authoritarian decision of the government and defend parliamentary democracy”.
The MPs suspended include six Congress members, two each from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Shiv Sena, and one each from the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M).
The six MPs from the Congress are Phulo Devi Netam, Chhaya Verma, Ripun Bora, Rajamani Patel, Syed Nasir Hussain, and Akhilesh Prasad Singh. The TMC’s Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri, the Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi and Anil Desai, the CPI’s Binoy Viswam, and the CPI(M)’s Elamaram Kareem are the other MPs suspended.
During the monsoon session, Opposition MPs had consistently disrupted Parliament, demanding debates on issues including the Pegasus spyware and the three contentious agriculture laws against which farmers were protesting (the laws are being repealed in this session).
Dramatic scenes ensued in the Rajya Sabha on 11 August, with MPs clashing with security personnel, which led to Parliament being adjourned two days early.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved the resolution for suspension under Rule 256 (which deals with suspension of members) of the Rajya Sabha’s Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. It was passed by voice vote.
The resolution said the House “strongly condemns the utter disregard to the authority of the Chair and complete abuse of rules of the House” and accused the MPs of “unprecedented acts of misconduct, contemptuous, unruly, and violent behaviour and intentional attack on security personnel”.
Verma, one of the Congress MPs, told ThePrint that “the suspension is unfair and undemocratic”. “The Prime Minister is muzzling the voice of the Opposition by suspending MPs,” she said.
Party colleague Bora added, “They decided to suspend MPs without hearing our point of view, which is one-sided and vindictive. It’s the murder of democracy. Where will MPs raise their voice if not in Parliament? We fought for the farmers’ cause. This is a way to silence Opposition voices.”
What happened during the monsoon session
During this year’s monsoon session, the Opposition disrupted Parliament, accusing the government of avoiding debates on contentions issues like Pegasus and the farm laws’ protest.
On 11 August, both Houses were adjourned two days ahead of schedule after Opposition MPs climbed on the reporters’ table in the Rajya Sabha during a discussion, threw a file at the Chair, and allegedly manhandled security personnel, including a woman marshal. There were also counter-allegations that it was security marshals who had manhandled women MPs.
Piyush Goyal, Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, was part of a delegation of seven ministers who submitted a memorandum to Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, ex officio chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, demanding action against the Opposition MPs.
Sources in the Rajya Sabha secretariat said that Naidu considered several options, such as setting up a special committee or allowing the House’s Privileges or Ethics Committee to look into the issue, before the winter session began and the resolution was moved under Rule 256.
Naidu also sought and received a report from the security personnel. They claimed that Kareem and Desai had tried to break a security cordon formed by marshals, and that Verma and Devi had physically dragged away a male marshal to make way for other MPs to reach the table and cause a ruckus.
Marshals reportedly complained of injuries they had received that day, although the Opposition alleged that personnel had been called in from outside for a planned attack on them.
In 2020, the Rajya Sabha suspended eight MPs for one week for “unruly behaviour” during the passage of the agriculture laws. Four of those suspended Monday — Bora, Hussain, Kareem, and Sen — were among them, alongside the TMC’s Derek O’Brien, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh, the Congress’s Rajiv Satav and the CPI(M)’s K.K. Ragesh.