After opposition, linguists and scholars question record on unparliamentary speech
In 2015, Shiv Sena MP Hemant Godse faced a difficult situation.
His surname, “Godse”, was listed as an unparliamentary word in 1956.
Eight years after Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by Nathuram Godse, a Lok Sabha MP referred to Mahatma’s killer by his surname during a discussion of the States Reorganization Bill. The then Lok Sabha Vice President, Sardar Hukam Singh, then suggested the removal of the word “Godse” from the day’s proceedings. “Godse” was later incorporated into the compilation of unparliamentary words and phrases.
Decades later, Hemant Godse, an MP for Nashik in Maharashtra, had to write to the Speakers of both Houses to remove his surname “Godse” from the list of unparliamentary expressions “with immediate effect”; a request which Lok Sabha President Sumitra Mahajan complied with.
A controversy surrounding unparliamentary words in the country’s top legislature erupted again last month, when the parliamentary secretary released a new, updated compilation of “unparliamentary words”, with some, including linguists, claiming that some words included in the list did not seem “unparliamentary”. ”.
The list of unparliamentary expressions included words such as ‘shame’, ‘ass’, ‘drama’, ‘eye drops’, ‘fudge’, ‘hooliganism’, ‘hypocrisy’, ‘incompetent’, ‘misleading’, ‘lie’ and “lie”. ‘. Besides that, some Hindi words like ‘gaddar’, ‘girgit’, ‘goons’, ‘gadiyali ansu’, ‘apmaan’, ‘asatya’, ‘ahankaar’, ‘corrupt’, ‘kala din’, ‘kala bazaari and ‘khareed farokht’ ‘danga’, ‘dalal’, ‘daadagiri’, ‘dohra charitra’, ‘bechara’, ‘bobcut’, ‘lollypop’, ‘vishwasghat’, ‘samvedanheen’, ‘insane’, ‘pitthu’ , ‘behri sarkar’ and ‘sexual harassment’.
According to linguist and academic Anvita Abbi, these words listed in the parliamentary secretary’s official compilation were “unethical” at best, but raised questions about whether many of the words included in the list were truly unethical in nature. parliamentary.
“…some of the words don’t seem unparliamentary… Their use could be unethical in parliament,” Abbi says.
In 1999, the parliamentary secretary’s office published a booklet of “unparliamentary words and expressions”. The 2004 edition of the pamphlet entitled ‘Expressions Not Parliamentary’ ran to 900 pages with a more exhaustive list of these words. This list was revised again in 2010.
The repository of “unparliamentary” words and phrases limits what a parliamentarian can say and in what context within the legislature.
According to Article 105(2) of the Constitution, “no member of Parliament may be sued in court for anything said or voted by him in Parliament or in any of its committees”.
The Constitution also grants certain discretionary powers to the President under Rules 380 and 390 of the Rules of Procedure and the conduct of business. It empowers the Speaker of the House to remove certain words from a speech that are indecent, defamatory or unparliamentary. The Speaker of the State Assemblies also holds similar discretionary powers, which enable him to dissuade members from using unparliamentary words and expressions.
The President is also empowered to sanction legislators for violation of these provisions. In March this year, Gujarat MPP Punja Vansh was suspended for seven days because he said Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi was “using tapori-like language” – an expression not parliamentarian during question time.
Incidentally, words deemed unparliamentary are not prohibited from being used in Parliament. But they are stricken from the record if they are used in a context that does not befit the dignity of the House. For example, what if an MP uses the word “rape”, which is a non-parliamentary listed word. Since its use cannot be avoided in discussions related to violence against women, it will be up to the Chair to keep the word or erase it from the record.
But despite the built-in regulations tied to the conduct of legislators in legislatures, MPs and deputies tend to use words, which are otherwise unparliamentary.
During a debate on the Rafale deal recently, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of involvement in corruption allegations over the fighter jet deal.
“Chowkidar nahi Bhagidar hai” (he is involved (in the Rafale deal) and not a guardian),” Gandhi had said in the Lok Sabha.
Technological advances in recent times have changed the way parliamentary debates are recorded and broadcast. Therefore, experts believe that the new Unparliamentary Words Booklet will not deter parliamentarians from using unparliamentary words or phrases “…but it will unreasonably restrict the freedom of speech of Members of Parliament”, says political science professor Aditya Misra.
Writer and professor Rakhshanda Jalil finds the recently published list of such words defies logic, especially when words like “sexual harassment” are listed there.
“(It) amounts to turning a blind eye to a reality experienced by countless Indians regardless of gender. Other (words) such as abused, apmaan, incompetent, tanashah/tanashahi in the additional list defy common sense said Jalil.
The opposition has described the new list of unparliamentary words released by the parliamentary secretary as an attack on free speech and an attempt to “gag” them.
“If these words are removed from the general vocabulary, the very essence and impact of the phrase would be minimized…” Congressman Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said in a letter to the President.
Responding to the uproar in Parliament, Lok Speaker Om Birla clarified that publishing the booklet containing unparliamentary words has been common practice since 1954 and no words have been banned. A word is declared unparliamentary based on the context in which it was used, Birla explained.
PDT. Achary, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, in an article for TheWire after the controversy broke out, said that all MPs who speak in their respective chambers receive an unedited version of their speeches, within hours, from routinely, allowing them to make any necessary corrections, before it is printed.
“How could it have escaped them? asks Acharya.
The preface to the controversial pamphlet itself states that it is a routine exercise in Parliament to declare certain words and phrases unparliamentary.
“From time to time, certain words and expressions are declared unparliamentary by the Speaker of different Legislative Bodies in India. These words and expressions, as well as those declared unparliamentary in Commonwealth Parliaments, are compiled by the Lok Sabha Secretary for future reference,” the booklet reads. The published document, however, does not specify whether the use of the listed words is prohibited or not.