The pepper spray attack in Parliament on Thursday has revived the debate seeking an end to exemption to Member of Parliaments (MPs) from being frisked when they enter Parliament.
The Thursday Parliament event has also brought focus back on a strong code of conduct in view of pandemonium hitting various Vidhan Sabhas in the country. Earlier this week a legislator was injured in a scuffle in J&K Assembly.
The demand for frisking of MPs comes at a time when there is premium on simplicity in politics and a scramble among politicians to not to be seen as promoting VIP culture.
But the no frisking privilege is something that parliamentarians have found hard to resist.
The practice has persisted given the wide expectation that parliamentarians would conduct themselves with maturity.
The plea that the pepper spray was used in self defence does not cut much ice.
On the contrary the commotion caused by it has led to a vociferous demand for frisking to prevent any such eventuality in future.
It is indeed true that parliamentarians have not had to encounter any such criticism so far primarily because no external object or weapon was ever used on the floor of the House making the pepper spray attack the first of its kind.
But a look back on the conduct of parliamentarians on security quotient shows them to be not so efficient.
Showing serious security lapses, as per the annual report of Rajya Sabha, a total of 681 security tools have been reported lost from the parliament between 2007 and 2012. The security tools include I-Cards, RF Tags (Individual), Parking Labels, RF Tags (Vehicle) and Passes.
Surprisingly, it’s not only the office staff in the house but a plethora of MPs and ex MPs who have reported about the loss of such important access tools.
Between 2007 and 2012, while 65 security tools reported missing by serving MPs, ex-MPs also registered a loss of 81 such items.
Apart from security lapse issue, there is the other big issue of ensuring the House runs properly? With growing violations, there is a case to revisit the procedure involved in maintaining discipline among parliamentarians and legislators.
As per the rule 374 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha any member whose conduct is disorderly can be directed to withdraw immediately from the House and absent himself for the remainder of the day’s sitting. Similarly, under rule 375, in the case of a grave disorder arising in the House, the Speaker may adjourn the House or suspend any sitting member for a time to be named by him or her.
It seems in yesteryears, speakers (Lok Sabha) and chairman (Rajya Sabha) have shown more alacrity in acting against errant MPs.
The Rajya Sabha's publication "Rajya Sabha at Work" lists several incidents in which members were suspended. Raj Narain was suspended several times in 1966, 1967, 1971 and 1974. Each time, he refused to withdraw from the house and was removed by the Marshal on three occasions. Godey Murahari was suspended thrice in 1962, and twice in 1966.
The largest set of suspensions occurred in the Lok Sabha in 1989. Following commotion over the tabling of the Thakkar Commission report that looked into the assassination of Indira Gandhi, 63 MPs were suspended for a week.