New Delhi: The expulsion of seven Congress Lok Sabha MPs from Parliament for the remaining session has happened for the first time in the country, constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha secretary general PDT Achary told News18 in an interview.
While parliamentarians in the past have been suspended for obstructing the functioning of the House, such a strict punishment — barring a member for an entire session — is unprecedented, he said.
Regarding Lok Sabha Speaker Om Prakash Birla agreeing to the formation of a privilege committee to decide whether the same members could be expelled from the House, Achary said it is a "non-serious proposition".
"As far as I can recall, this quantum of punishment (of barring the seven MPs from Lower House for the remainder of the session) is happening for the first time," said Achary. "On several occasions, members have been found to be obstructing the House; once in a while, they are suspended as well. But usually what happens is that the opposition members have a dialogue with the ruling party members and the suspension is revoked or reduced."
The principle behind the dialogue between the ruling party members and those from the opposition is that a harmonious relationship is established and work in the Parliament can be carried on smoothly, Achary said.
Such a strong punishment, as announced by the Lok Sabha speaker, for Assam MP Gaurav Gogoi and six others, would not go towards establishing such a harmonious relationship, the former LS official added.
"I feel something has changed in the functioning of the House. There is a lot of acrimony. It is very strange," said Achary. "Earlier too, members have come into the Well, have thrown papers at the Chair, but such a punishment was never delivered."
As far as the issue of expulsion was concerned, the constitutional expert said, "Such an action has to have a very strong and definitive ground. It has to be established that the members were doing something that violated the privileges of the House — that they were committing a grave crime."
He added that members who have already been punished, by being barred for the remainder of the session for their unruly behaviour, cannot be awarded a greater punishment for the same crime.
"You cannot expel people on the same grounds on which you have suspended them. It is a very absurd thing, a very non-serious proposition," Achary said.
Earlier in the day, the Lok Sabha passed a motion suspending seven Congress members for the remaining period of the Budget session for their “gross misconduct” after they snatched papers from the Speaker's table. Besides Gogoi, the others suspended are TN Prathapan, Dean Kuriakose, Manicka Tagore, Rajmohan Unnithan, Benny Behanan and Gurjeet Singh Aujla.
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, presiding over the House, claimed the suspended members had "forcefully" snatched and tossed papers from the Speaker’s podium.
"Such an unfortunate incident has possibly happened for the first time in parliamentary history...I condemn this behaviour," she said while naming the members.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi then moved a motion to suspend these members from the House for the remaining period of the Budget session. The motion was passed by a voice vote amid protests by Opposition members.