The INDIA bloc of parties is up in arms over political sloganeering from the Visitors’ Gallery at the Rajya Sabha, in violation of House rules, during the discussion on the women’s reservation bill on Thursday.
In a coordinated move, at least one member from each of the various INDIA constituents in the Rajya Sabha has sent an identical letter to Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar. The letter demands action for the disruption, including against any MP on whose recommendation an errant visitor was allowed into the gallery.
Among those who have sent the letter are Jairam Ramesh of the Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena (Thackeray) and Mausam Noor of the Trinamul Congress.
The Opposition had raised the issue in the House on Thursday after staging a walkout in protest against the political sloganeering — chants of “Modi, Modi” — from the Visitors’ Gallery.
Once they returned to the House, the Chairman said the matter would be “thoroughly investigated” and “some kind of SOP” might be evolved.
In the letter to the Chairman, the MPs have underlined that Rule 264 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha lays out regulations for the visitors.
“The fact that over 50 visitors were able to raise slogans is a matter of grave concern,” the MPs’ letter says.
The subsequent rule (265) adds that the Chairman “whenever he thinksfit, may order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the Council”.
The rule governing public galleries makes it clear that the MPs seeking passes for their guests are responsible for their conduct.
“Under the regulations, a member can apply for a visitor’s card for a person who is known to him personally or in select cases, for those who have been introduced to the member by a person who is personally known to him,” the rules say.
“It is in the latter class of cases that members are to exercise utmost care. Members are advised to bear in mind that they are responsible for any untoward incident or undesirable thing happening in the galleries as a result of anything done by holders of cards issued at the request of such members.”
The MPs’ letter says the incident should be investigated to identify how such a breach of security and decorum was possible.
“The individual responsible for the disruption must be held accountable for their actions. Any MP found to be involved in facilitating this incident should also face appropriate consequences,” it says.
Those allowed into the Visitors’ Gallery have to follow a strict code of conduct. Visitors are told not to speak loudly, sit cross-legged, lean over, clap or make gestures such as pointing to members or waving at them.
They are essentially to act like a fly on the wall under the strict vigil of the extremely polite watch-and-ward staff. Schoolchildren, who come in large groups, also follow this strict discipline and subscribe to the general principle that they can be seen but not heard by the members.