The Telegraph
Thursday , December 3 , 2015

Review ban, MLAs tell Pujari

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 2: The Opposition today urged the Speaker to reconsider his ruling banning the telecast and printing of photographs of placards and banners displayed in the House by members.

Speaker Niranjan Pujari had given the ruling yesterday after Congress members waved banners and placards against the state government in the House.

However, describing the ruling as "anti-democratic", Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati urged the Speaker to reconsider it.

"We were forced to display the banners and rush into the well of the House in protest as our plea for a discussion on farmers' suicides and drought was not accepted," he said adding that such a protest was the only option for his party.

The Congress chief whip recalled that during the monsoon session of the Assembly, an all-party meeting had decided that members would not display placards and banners as, according to the ruling party leaders, this was not to the liking of chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

"The meeting also decided that Assembly proceedings will be adjourned whenever members come to the well of the House. But this unanimous decision was flouted as the House was run even after Leader of Opposition sat on a dharna in the well. When you don't follow the rules, why impose it on the Opposition?" said Bahinipati.

He requested the Speaker to allow the live telecast of Assembly proceedings for the entire day. At present, the live telecast is limited only to the Question Hour.

The demand was also supported by his party colleagues Nabakishore Das and Prafulla Majhi. The BJP described the Speaker's decision as a " black ruling." "It amounts to whittling down the democratic rights of the people to know what was happening in the legislature," said BJP MLA Pradip Purohit adding that his party wanted revision of the ruling.

The ruling raised eyebrows as the banners and placards displayed by the Congress members in the House yesterday had been telecast by some TV channels.

"There is no meaning of the ruling after the live telecast of the particular incident," said former Speaker Kishore Chandra Patel adding that reporting of Assembly proceedings should not be banned in the public interest.

Another former Speaker said that reporting rights of the electronic or print media should not be curbed when "every thing is allowed on the social media". He also pointed out that there was no precedent of imposing restriction on visuals in the Assembly in the past.

"This ruling is unprecedented. Several times in the past the Opposition members have even climbed onto the Speaker's podium creating pandemonium. But never was media restrained from reporting this," said a veteran journalist who has spent more than 40 years covering the Assembly.

However, a ruling BJD member defended the Speaker's decision saying it was justified in the larger context of decency and decorum of the House.

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