When can MPs be suspended from the House? What Rules are followed in the process?
- Eight Rajya Sabha MPs were suspended on September 21 for unruly behavior in the House. The Chairman of Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 to "direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately" from the House.
What is the reason for suspending an MP?
- The general principle is that it is the role and duty of the Presiding Officer Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairman of Rajya Sabha to maintain order so that the House can function smoothly. The suspension of the eight members comes a day after the Upper House witnessed massive unruly scenes by protesting Opposition members during the passage of two farm Bills.
- In order to ensure that proceedings are conducted in the proper manner, the Speaker/Chairman is empowered to force a Member to withdraw from the House.
What are the Rules under which the Presiding Officer acts?
- Rule Number 373 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business says: “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, and any Member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall remain absent during the remainder of the day’s sitting.”
- To deal with more recalcitrant Members, the Speaker make take recourse to Rules 374 and 374A.
What happens in Rajya Sabha?
- It’s largely similar, with one important difference.
- Like the Speaker in Lok Sabha, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha is empowered under Rule Number 255 of its Rule Book to “direct any Member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately” from the House.
- Unlike the Speaker, however, the Rajya Sabha Chairman does not have the power to suspend a Member. The House may, by another motion, terminate the suspension.
- The Chairman may “name a Member who disregards the authority of the Chair or abuses the rules of the Council by persistently and wilfully obstructing” business. In such a situation, the House may adopt a motion suspending the Member from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session.
Isn’t the barring of an elected representative of the people an extreme step to take in order to curb unruly behavior?
- In general, a balance has to be struck. There can be no question that the enforcement of the supreme authority of the Presiding Officer is essential for smooth conduct of proceedings. However, it must be remembered that the job of the Presiding Officer is to run the House, not to lord over it.
- The solution to unruly behavior has to be long-term and consistent with democratic values. A previous Speaker had ordered that television cameras be focused on the demonstrating members, so that people could see for themselves how their representatives were behaving in the House.
- In the present case, however, the Opposition has accused the Chairman of stopping the telecast of the proceedings in Rajya Sabha.
- What cannot be denied is that Speaker’s/Chairman’s actions are often dictated more by expediency and the stand of the party that they belong to, rather than by the Rules and principles.
- So, the ruling party of the day invariably insists on the maintenance of discipline, just as the Opposition insists on its right to protest. And their positions change when their roles flip.