Uphold dignity

The parliamentary committee on security which has rejected the demand for frisking or stricter security checks of members while they enter parliament has evaded an issue which has the potential to further degrade its working. The demand was raised after last week’s shameful incident of an MP using pepper spray in the House to scuttle the introduction of the Telangana bill. There was also suspicion that another MP had wielded a knife, though it was denied.

 However, it is clear that an offensive weapon, even if it was a pepper spray, was brought into the House by an MP and it was used against other members. This was an unprecedented situation and, like all wrong and bad precedents, could get worse and lead to more serious situations in future.

Most members of the committee probably felt that it was below the dignity of parliament to subject its members to physical checks. But incidents like the use of pepper spray are more degrading than recourse to some preventive measures like frisking. The committee was not in favour of even less obtrusive measures like scanning of body and belongings, though such checking routinely takes place in airports. Even arguments like violation of privacy and danger to the health of those undergoing such examinations were raised to reject the proposal. But the fact again is that these concerns, which may seem right and legitimate in normal situations, have to be judged in the context of the lowering of the sanctity of parliament and even the threat to the physical safety of other members, likely to be posed by the actions of a rogue member. The working of parliament has got more and more physical over the years and it can plumb to still lower levels. It should also not be forgotten that there are many members who are facing criminal charges of varying kinds and degrees, and measures to prevent the election of candidates with such antecedents will not be completely successful in future also.A few members of the committee were ready to consider the proposals and that might show that there is some realisation of the need for some restrictive steps. But the committee has shifted the matter to the next Lok Sabha. It is likely to be revisited only if a more serious incident takes place in the House. It is unfortunate that the sense of importance of individual members is given more importance than the collective image of parliament.

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