The Telegraph
Saturday , February 15 , 2014
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MPs shy of frisking in ‘own House’
Speaker calls security meet

New Delhi, Feb. 14: The burst of pepper spray in the Lok Sabha has revived the debate on frisking MPs before they enter Parliament.

The “honourable members” have so far opposed the proposal on the ground that they cannot be subject to security checks in their own House.

However, after yesterday’s incident that Speaker Meira Kumar termed a “blot”, officers in charge of Parliament security are gearing up to revive the proposal.

“We are preparing to revive the frisking proposal after what happened in the Lok Sabha. But we are not sure if the members will accept it,” said a security officer associated with Parliament.

The issue will be discussed at a meeting the Speaker has convened on Monday. A release from the Lok Sabha secretariat said: “In order to consider the events in the House on Thursday, the Speaker has directed that an emergency meeting of the Committee on Security in Parliament Complex should be called on Monday.”

After the 2001 terror attack, Parliament’s security was scaled up several times. High-security gadgets and metal detectors were installed and the most capable personnel from the police and paramilitary forces deployed to guard the building. Starting from stationery to eatables to furniture, everything is checked before being allowed in.

However, MPs of both Houses are exempt from frisking. There are special provisions that allow them to bypass the metal detectors and walk straight in.

Several MPs today expressed opposition to frisking despite the pepper-spray attack. Senior BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said frisking would not necessarily prevent such incidents but would certainly “denigrate” MPs.

“Even the string in the pyjamas that MPs wear can be used to strangulate a person. Can it be prevented by frisking?” he asked.

“It all depends on the behaviour and attitude of the members and the government,” he added, blaming the Congress for the mayhem in Parliament.

“What was the need to bulldoze the Telangana bill? The government should allow discussion and debate on the division of Andhra Pradesh that has generated so much of outrage.”

Trinamul MP Derek O’Brien too felt that frisking was not the remedy. “Parliament is not school or college. Members have to introspect and draw their own Lakshman rekhas... frisking is not the solution.”

“Commando” Kamal Kishore, securityman-turned-Congress MP, refrained from taking a stand. “The issue is being discussed. I will agree with whatever the majority of the MPs feel,” he said.

But security experts said it was high time the Speaker took a call on whether MPs should be frisked with a full-body scanner.

“If an MP is carrying a tiffin box for instance, he may not know what he has been given by his cook. But it could contain something that could threaten his life and that of others,” said a home ministry official.

“A system could be introduced whereby an MP could be asked to give an undertaking that he/she will not carry into Parliament anything that is deleterious, harmful or threatening,” he suggested.

According to rules, MPs cannot carry placards into the House. But the provision is openly flouted. The serial anti-Telangana protests have seen even cabinet-rank ministers holding placards in the well of the House.