Rahul Gandhi row: Amid a row that erupted following Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's last trip to London over his remarks on democracy, he asserted that he has the right to respond in Parliament to the "totally baseless" and "unfair charges" hurled at him by senior ministers in the Lok Sabha.
In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Gandhi invoked Rule 357 which allows for "personal explanations" and also cited the example of BJP MP and then minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who invoked the Rule to explain comments made by Jyotiraditya Scindia about him in Parliament
"I am making such a request again. I am seeking this permission under the conventions of Parliamentary practice, the constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice and Rule 357 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha," he said in his letter to the Speaker.
Citing Rule 357, Gandhi said, "A member may, with the permission of the Speaker, make a personal explanation although there is no question before the House, but in this case no debatable matter may be brought forward, and no debate shall arise."
What Congress says
The Congress leader said members of the ruling regime have made "scurrilous and defamatory claims against me" both within and outside Parliament. "As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly allow me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for 'personal explanations'," he said.
He also claimed that there are several examples available on the Lok Sabha Digital Library which show that this right isn't restricted to responding to statements made within Parliament but extends to allegations made in the public domain as well.
"Finally, Parliament like any other institution is bound by the Rules of Natural Justice contained in Articles 14 and 21 of our Constitution. They are a guarantee against administrative arbitrariness and ensure that every person has a right to be heard in a cause with which they are concerned.
"Surely, you would agree that Parliament of all institutions cannot abdicate the responsibility to respect this right when it doesn't suit the ruling regime.
"I hope the above satisfies your query and that you will allow me a right to reply in the Lok Sabha at the earliest," Gandhi told the Speaker and added that he will be away in Karnataka and Kerala on March 20 and 21.
Why this uproar?
Gandhi's democracy remarks have triggered a massive political row, with the BJP accusing him of maligning India on foreign soil and seeking foreign interventions and the Congress hitting back, citing instances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising internal politics abroad.
During his interactions in the United Kingdom recently, Gandhi had alleged that the structures of Indian democracy are under attack and there is a "full-scale assault" on the country's institutions.
The Congress has said that Gandhi wants to speak in the Lok Sabha to clarify the remarks. The BJP is accusing the Congress leader of seeking foreign intervention and has been stalling both houses of Parliament while demanding an apology from him.
Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have failed to transact any significant business so far due to the impasse during the second part of the Budget session of Parliament that started on March 13.
(With inputs from PTI)
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