The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crossfire over Sonia ‘smear’

New Delhi, Nov. 27: Amid uproarious scenes, agitated Congress members in the Lok Sabha stalled a bid by a Samata Party member to “smear” Sonia Gandhi’s name by levelling “frivolous” charges.

The chair later expunged the defamatory allegations.

At the fag end of zero hour, Samata MP Prabhunath Singh brought up a November 21 newspaper report about the leader of the Opposition. Immediately, Congress members were on their feet protesting against the “frivolous” and “unsubstantiated” questions raised by the member. RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh joined the Congress protest, threatening to move into the well.

Sensing the angry mood of the Congress members, Speaker Manohar Joshi adjourned the House for lunch. As members were leaving, Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi was heard saying that “we will not allow the House to run” if such issues are allowed to be raised.

Das Munshi also said Singh had levelled such charges against Sonia because Samata leader Jaya Jaitly had to resign following the Tehelka expose.

Protesting loudly, Congress members demanded that the remarks be expunged from the records.

When the House reassembled after the lunch break, deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed, who was in the chair, allowed Congress leader Shivraj Patil to speak. Patil quoted relevant rules to argue that the Samata member could not raise such issues and malign the leader of Opposition.

He said Rule 363 made it clear that the floor of the House is not used to make allegations of a defamatory nature.

He said the rule stipulated that if any member wanted to raise any such issue, advance notices have to be given to the Speaker, to the member against whom the allegation is sought to be made and the minister concerned. Since no such notices were given, Singh could not raise issues of a defamatory nature, Patil said.

He asked the Speaker to expunge the remarks, saying that such derogatory allegations not only lowered the dignity of the House but also did not serve any public interest.

Accepting the argument that notice had to be given before such an issue was brought up, the deputy Speaker expunged the remarks.

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