An all-out battle has broken out between Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chairperson Shashi Tharoor and the BJP after the former suggested summoning a panel meeting to discuss the alleged "misconduct" of Facebook India.
After Tharoor and BJP's Nishikant Dubey submitted their respective breach of privilege notices against each other to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, the saffron party MP wrote another letter requesting Birla to remove the Congress leader from the post.
"...for invoking Rule 283 in relation to Rule 258(3) of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha for choosing another member to act as Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology. This is so that the Speaker may from time to time issue such directions to the Chairperson of a Committee, as the Speaker considers necessary, for regulating its procedure and the organisation of its work," said Dubey's letter.
"Speaking in 'Spenserian' English with a foreign accent does not give freedom to an individual not only to disregard our glorious Parliamentary Institutions/Organs to meet his own political ambitions but also to abuse our Constitution by referring to the 'House of Commons' for establishing that while raising pertinent issues for regulating the affairs of the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology as per established procedure, I have committed the offence of 'Breach of Privilege'," Dubey wrote.
"It is now an impossibility to regulate the affairs of the Committee on Information Technology in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and Directions issued by your goodself till the time Dr Tharoor continues to occupy the exalted seat of Hon'ble Chairperson, Committee on Information Technology," he added.
Another BJP MP, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, has also written to Birla against Tharoor for speaking in public about his intention to summon Facebook officials without discussing the matter first in the parliamentary committee.
"Issuing statements as to who would be summoned and what would be the agenda of the meeting is absolutely uncalled for and is violative of the procedures of the Lok Sabha. The proclivity of the IT committee chairman to speak to media first undermines the functioning of the committee members and the committee itself," Rathore said on Thursday. He is also a member of the committee which Tharoor heads.
Rathore, a former Union minister, said the IT committee members have no issue on "summoning whosoever the committee feels needs to be summoned for the protection of the rights of citizens of our country" but added that the matter should be discussed in the panel first.
The slugfest started after Tharoor said the standing committee would like to hear from Facebook officials about its hate speech rules in wake of a report in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that the social media giant refused to apply such rules to certain ruling party politicians in India.
In the report published on Friday, the US newspaper cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to claim that one of its senior India policy executives intervened in internal communication to stop a permanent ban on a BJP MLA from Telangana after he allegedly made communally charged posts.
Reacting to the controversy, Facebook on Monday said the company's social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence, adding these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
"While we know there is more to do, we're making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy," a Facebook spokesperson said.
(With PTI inputs)