Uproar in Rajya Sabha at zero hour over media reporting expunged remarks

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Rajya Sabha witnessed uproar and brief adjournment during the Zero Hour
Rajya Sabha witnessed uproar and brief adjournment during the Zero Hour

New Delhi : The Rajya Sabha on Friday witnessed uproar by the opposition and brief adjournment during the Zero Hour over a section of media circulating remarks by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal which had been withdrawn by him and expunged by the Chair.

Agrawal raised the issue soon after the Upper House of Parliament met for the Day. He said that he was being criticized by media and threatened by BJP activists over the expunged remarks, which he said was a breach of privilege of the House.

Opposition members cutting across party lines supported Agrawal and demanded the Chair initiate breach of privilege proceedings against the erring news channel as well the publications that carried the remarks which had been expunged from the proceedings of the House.

Agarwal had on Wednesday linked the names of a few Hindu gods and goddesses with types of liquor in couplets that he attributed to "BJP people".

After the loud protest by the treasury benches, Agrawal later withdrew the remarks and also expressed regret over it. Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, who was presiding over the House at that time, categorically asked both electronic and print media to not publish/telecast the expunged portion.

The members had also asked the Chair to bar the social media from circulating the inflammatory remarks in the presence of Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

However, the remarks were reported by a news channel and some newspapers and also made it to the social media.

On Thursday, unidentified persons, claiming to be BJYM members, blackened the nameplate of Agrawal's 6, Tughlak Lane residence here.

A FIR was also lodged against him in Meerut the same day.

On Friday, Agrawal said that he was receiving threats.

"This is contempt of this House," Agrawal said demanding breach of privilege motion against the erring TV channel and newspapers and the officials for lodging FIR against him.

A large number of opposition leaders stood up in Agrawal's support and demanded quick action in the matter.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma and Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said that under Rule 190 of the Proceedings of Rajya Sabha, the Chair should instantly issue a breach of privilege notice to the erring TV channel and newspapers.

The leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leaders K. Rahman Khan and Pramod Tiwari, JDU leader Sharad Yadav, CPI-M leader Tapan Sen and Samajwadi Party member Javed Ali Khan too demanded action in the matter.

Anand Sharma observed that it has "become a favorite pastime" for some some news channels to "berate, defame, insult, castigate parliamentarians and institutions" during their evening programs. 

However, Kurien said that privilege motion was not "instant coffee" and asked the members to give a notice which will be examined by the Chair.

"You give notice. I will examine it and come back to the House," he said.

The opposition members loudly protested against this and asked the Chair to evoke Rule 190 and instantly initiate action in the matter.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: "A lot of things appear in the media against the government, but we do not initiate a breach of privilege proceedings."

He said that as far as vandalizing Agrawal's house is concerned, proper action will be taken by the police if he lodges a FIR.

By this time, the opposition members trooped near the podium and started shouted slogans "Bhajpa ki gundagardi nahi chalegi".

Kurien adjourned the House for 15 minutes amidst the din.

However, as soon as the House met at 12 noon for Question Hour, the opposition members again raised the issue.

Chairman Hamid Ansari said that he has received the notice and has asked the Rajya Sabha Secretariat to take it further.

"I have received a notice from some members raising a question of privilege against a TV channel and some newspapers for making defamatory remarks against a member. The Secretariat has been asked to issue show cause notice and inquires further," Ansari said, putting the matter to rest.