Explained: Can Rahul Gandhi’s remarks be expunged from Parliamentary records?

Rahul Gandhi said that the remarks he made in Parliament cannot be expunged under Rule 380. What does Rule 380 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha say?
Rahul Gandhi showing a picture of the Hindu deity Shiva in Parliament
Rahul Gandhi showing a picture of the Hindu deity Shiva in ParliamentSansad Tv
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After the storm in Parliament on July 1, significant remarks made by Congress president Malikarjunan Kharge and Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi have been expunged from the records. However, questions on whether any of what either leader said can be expunged as per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of both Houses are being raised.

Rule 380 of the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure empowers the Speaker to expunge from records any remark that may be considered defamatory, indecent, unparliamentary, or undignified.

Grounds for expunging remarks from Parliamentary records

Rules 380 and 381 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha outline the grounds for expunging comments and the procedure for doing so. Rule 380 states, “If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion, order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House.”

Rule 381 states, “The portion of the proceedings of the House so expunged shall be marked by asterisks and an explanatory footnote shall be inserted in the proceedings as follows: ‘Expunged as ordered by the Chair’.”

The Speaker’s decision is also guided by a list of ‘Unparliamentary Expressions”. In 2022, the Union government released an updated list.

According to the latest list, words like “jumlajeevi, baal buddhi, Covid-spreader, abused, ashamed, betrayal, chamchagiri, cheated, Snoopgate,  Anarchist, Shakuni among others would be expunged if used during debates or otherwise in both the Houses. Other words include dodgy, drama, false, eyewash, fabrication, fraud, racist, etc.”

What happened in Parliament 

In his first speech as Leader of Opposition, Rahul launched an attack on the Prime Minister, saying, “The Prime Minister said that Gandhi is dead and was revived by a film. No, Gandhi is not dead,” he said, displaying a picture of Lord Shiva. He added that all religions including Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, and Christianity propagated non violence and advocated the ideal of “Daro math, daraao math”. The phrase, loosely translated, means, “Fear not. Do not cause fear in others.” 

The Rae Bareli MP emphasised by holding up posters of Lord Shiva, Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak, and religious iconography of Islam and Jainism. He went on to say, “What do the people who call themselves Hindus do? Violence, violence, violence. Hatred. Lies, lies and lies.” When BJP MPs in the House protested, Rahul further said, “You people are not Hindus.”

At this point, Prime Minister Narendra Modi objected and inaccurately suggested that Rahul had called all Hindus violent. Rahul responded to this by declaring, “Narendra Modi is not the entire Hindu community, BJP is not the entire Hindu community, and RSS is not the entire Hindu community.” 

Rahul also went on to criticise the Union government’s failure to pay adequate compensation to soldiers who had been enlisted under the Agniveer Scheme and lost their lives. 

He also brought up the ongoing NEET fiasco, saying that the exam only benefited rich students. 

Many hours after video clips of the exchange went viral, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expunged Rahul Gandhi’s remarks late at night on July 1. Several remarks made by Kharge in Rajya Sabha concerning NEET were also removed from Parliamentary records. 

Rahul reacts 

Protesting the expunction, Rahul Gandhi wrote to Speaker Om Birla. Stating  that the move “defies logic”, Rahul said, “I am constrained to state that the portions expunged do not come under the ambit of Rule 380. What I sought to convey in the House is ground reality, the factual position. Every member of the House who personifies the collective voice of people whom he or she represents has the freedom of speech as enshrined in Article 105(1) of the Constitution of India. It is every member's right to raise people’s concerns on the floor of the House.”

The Rae Bareli MP also spoke to media persons and said, “The truth may be expunged in Modi’s world, but it cannot be expunged from reality. What I said is the truth and I stand by it. They expunge it or do whatever they want to, but the truth will remain the truth.”

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