Lok Sabha Speaker Om Prakash Birla has written a letter to chairpersons of all the Department Related Standing Committees advising them to refrain from discussing any matter that is sub-judice or pending before a court in their respective committees.
In the letter, which has been seen by CNN-News18, Birla has asked the committee chairpersons to ensure that findings and reports from their briefings be kept confidential and no information is leaked to the media with those details.
The letter adds that the discretion of what subject is picked and discussed lies with the Speaker. This comes after Congress MP Shashi Tharoor announced in public that the parliamentary panel on Information Technology would summon Facebook in September.
"A Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records: provided that if any question arises whether the evidence of a person or the production of a document is relevant for the purposes of the Committee, the question shall be referred to the Speaker whose decision shall be final. Provided further that the government may decline to produce a document on the ground that its disclosure would be prejudicial to the safety or interest of the state," said the letter, quoting Rule 270.
It has been an all-out battle between Tharoor and BJP MP Nishikant Dubey. Both have submitted their respective breach of privilege notices against each other to Birla.
In another letter to Birla, Dubey had invoked 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 of the 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," it had said.
The war of words started on a Twitter thread where Tharoor, Dubey and Trinamool MP Mohua Moitra exchanged barbs over the role of a Committee chairperson. Dubey alleged that Tharoor had never consulted the agenda of summoning Facebook and/or WhatsApp in any of the meetings of the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology.
Facebook has been summoned after a report in the Wall Street Journal quoted by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who said, "BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India, they spread fake news and hatred thorough it and use it to influence the electorate."
Other MPs from the Committee have also joined in the chorus against Tharoor.