It's time to put House in order

Not a single member of the Assembly or the Council has been indicted for violation of rules

On July 9, 2010 BJP MLAs Somashekara Reddy, B Nagendra and H T Suresh Babu, Janardhana Reddy, Karunakara Reddy and Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, Dinesh Gundu Rao, M B Patil and M Manju used expletives, threatened each other and created a pandemonium in the House – No action was taken against the members.

On December 30, 2009, during the Speaker’s election, Zameer Ahmed Khan, H C Balakrishna, Kakaso Pandurang Patil, Rahim Khan, M Manju rushed to the Speaker’s chair, broke the mike and snatched papers from then Speaker Yogish Bhat’s hands and tore them up – No action was initiated against the members.

On October 11, 2010, members C S Puttaraju, Zameer Ahmed Khan, N A Haris, B K Sangameshwara, Bandeppa Kashempur, Suresh Gowda, H P Manjunath, U T Khader, P M Ashok, Rahim Khan, M T Krishnappa, H C Balakrishna, K Raju, Kakaso Pandurang Patil, along with the 16 disqualified MLAs, created a din in the House. MLA Goolihatti Shekar  stood up on his chair and tore his shirt – Yet again, no action is initiated against the members.

Cut to February 7, 2012. The incident which shamed the State legislature had Lakshman Savadi and C C Patil watching porn on Krishna Palemar’s cellphone. The matter has been referred to a House Committee. 

As senior politician K H Srinivas puts it, “bad conventions have become the precedence of the legislature,” and this cannot be far from the truth. While the Legislative Assembly lists 24 rules to be observed by the members, the Council lists around 30 rules to be followed by the members. However, the rules have been conveniently thrown to the winds.

That’s not all. Till date, not a single member of the Legislative Council or the Assembly has been indicted for violation of rules in the House.

Legislature records, between 1967 and 2004, accessed by Deccan Herald show that members have either been asked to withdraw from the House or they have been suspended. In recent years, despite the unruly behaviour by the legislators, no serious action has been initiated against them. 

To put an end to such conduct, the Legislative Council set up the Ethics Committee in 2006. But till date, not a single reference or complaint has been made to the Committee. The Assembly does not even have an Ethics Committee.

Sources in the legislature secretariat say that members are seen continuously violating the rules. Senior members, some of whom have previously held the Chair, are seen reading newspapers during the session. Talking loudly, shouting slogans, using expletives or disregarding the Chair in other ways have become a common affair.

Officials say members are not really bothered because they enjoy certain “immunities and privileges in the rules”.

Srinivas, who has also served as a Council Chairman, said that the reason for such bad precedents, especially in recent decades, is because of “puppets of the ruling party with no capacity to control the House being selected as Speakers.”

“When there is no respect for the Speaker, it is not surprising that the rules are not taken seriously. A Speaker should command the respect of all the members, as he is the custodian of the House. He should be allowed the freedom to act. Unfortunately, the rules are only meant to be in the books, thanks to the ineffective handling of the House. Also there is no agency trying to enliven the rules.

The person sitting in the Chair should have a personal stature, he should know the Constitution, the rules and regulations should be at his fingertips and he should know Parliamentary procedures, to say the least,” he said.

Srinivas said the good conventions of the legislature have been on a steady decline over the last few years. “Today, it is drowned in an unknown abyss for the very dictionary of rules is lost. The rules should be observed both in word and spirit,” he said.

He said the media should stop reporting about the pandemonium in the House. “There is a premium put on unruly behaviour by the media. Serious debates do not even get noticed because of this. Reportage on such incidents should not be permitted by the House,” he said.

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