Sonal Mansingh moves breach of privilege motion in Rajya Sabha against Arvind Kejriwal

“The questions arises is the act of tearing a law that has been passed in Parliament and received the President’s accent a breach of privilege.
Arvind Kejriwal Delhi
Arvind Kejriwal Delhi

Rajya Sabha member Sonal Mansingh on Thursday moved a breach of privilege motion in the Upper House against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The motion comes in the wake of Kejriwal’s statement in the Delhi Assembly on December 17 where he said that the three farm bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha in September without voting.

The motion, which was filed on Wednesday, will be taken up by the chairperson and sent to the Delhi Assembly for further action said a person aware of the details.

The Rajya Sabha in September passed the essential commodities (amendment) bill; the Farmers’ produce trade and commerce (promotion and facilitation) Bill and the farmers’ (empowerment and protection) agreement on price assurance and farm services Bill through a voice vote. The proceedings of the House were conducted amid a din as opposition parties protested against the three bills.

Expressing support for a section of farmers who are protesting against the farm laws, Kejriwal on December 17 had torn the farm laws on the floor of the assembly and said, “What was the hurry to get farm laws passed in Parliament during the pandemic? It has perhaps happened for the first time that the three laws were passed without voting in Rajya Sabha…”

Mansingh, who is a nominated member of the Upper House in her letter to the Rajya Sabha chairperson has said, the Delhi chief minister’s statement that the three bills were passed without voting “is not only a serious breach of privilege but also a blatant contempt of the House, which was a mischievous attempt to denigrate the character of the chairman, Rajya Sabha and the prestige of the Upper House of the Parliament of India.”

She further said the speech delivered on December 17, cast serious aspersions on the overall working of the Rajya Sabha and made “unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations against the chairman”.

In her complaint, Mansingh has said, “Since this criticism on the integrity of chairman, Rajya Sabha and the prudence of the Council of States is a reflection on the Members and the House itself, it is contempt of the House, and thus, constitutes a breach of privilege of the House.”

The letter goes on to say, Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the legislative assembly of Delhi and the CM has “criticised Rajya Sabha in the legislative assembly of Delhi and questioned the sagacity of Rajya Sabha, in general, and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha in particular. His actions were thus, to obstruct and denigrate the Upper House of Parliament in the performance of its function.”

According to a person aware of parliamentary procedure, a member of Parliament can move a breach of privilege motion against the Delhi CM. “In 1955 during a speaker’s conference it was decided that a motion of breach of privilege can be moved against another house,” the person quoted above said.

To buttress her point Mansingh has cited portions from the Practice and Procedure of Parliament by Kaul and Shakdher that stipulates —“It is breach of privilege and contempt of the House to make speeches reflecting on the character or proceedings of the House or its committees or any member of the house or relating to his character or contact as member. Speeches or writings reflecting on the House or its committees or members are punished by the House as contempt on the privilege that such acts tend to obstruct the House in the performance of their functions by diminishing the respect due to them.”

Constitutional expert PDT Achary, however, said merely tearing up a law that has been passed is not breach of privilege. “The questions arises is the act of tearing a law that has been passed in Parliament and received the President’s accent a breach of privilege. And if the chairperson finds it so, then it is not for the RS to take action; it has to be dealt with by the Delhi Assembly,” he said.

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