MP Speaker’s duplicity
Posted March 3, 2012on:
The manner in which Congress MLA Kalpana Parulekar has been arrested and jailed does little credit to the police, the government and the judiciary in Madhya Pradesh. It also exposes once again the duplicity of Assembly Speaker Ishwardas Rohani who has brought disgrace to the House many times by his partisan behaviour.
Parulekar’s offence is not such that the courts should repeatedly refuse bail to her. The police, which was once described by a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court as the “criminal force in uniform”, has not so far explained how Parulekar has come to be treated as the main and only accused.
One afternoon in early February, the CID officers had swooped on the house of Parulekar at Mahidpur in Ujjain district, arrested her, brought her to Bhopal and produced her at the residence of a judicial magistrate in the night. The magistrate remanded her to judicial custody. The sessions court had refused to reverse the judicial magistrate’s order.
Parulekar had, for all that is known, distributed in the House and then at the Assembly press room during the last session towards the end of November a photograph showing Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta Prakash Prabhakar Naolekar in the RSS uniform. Naolekar claimed that the photograph was morphed; the police registered an FIR and entrusted the case to the CID “for investigation”.
Who did the police or CID get the offending photograph from? Surely, it was not from Parulekar. Why has the person, from whose possession the photograph was recovered by the police, not been made an accused? If someone took the photograph to the police to lodge a complaint that his feelings had been hurt by seeing Lokayukta Naolekar in RSS uniform, why did not the police reveal the name of the complainant and the nature of his grievance? Why does the police keep the FIR a closely guarded secret? Then regrettably, how did the judges allow themselves to become party to this dirty game of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Lokayukta Naolekar? These are some of the questions which Parulekar’s incarceration has thrown up.
The matter of Parulekar’s arrest and incarceration was vigorously raised in the Assembly by Congress members on Wednesday, the first day of the budget session, when Arif Aquil sought a discussion on his notice of breach of privilege because the police had violated the sanctity of the House by arresting the MLA without the consent of the Speaker. He was supported by other members of the party. The Speaker guiltily looked to minister of legislative affairs Narottam Mishra who pronounced that Parulekar had committed a crime and had accordingly been arrested and jailed. Moreover, he said, the matter was sub judice. (Does a matter become sub judice simply because someone has been arrested and jailed while no investigation has been completed and no charge sheet presented?)
Deputy Leader of Opposition Chaudhary Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi even quoted M N Kaul and S L Shakdher, authorities on parliamentary practices, to point out that the entire premises formed part of the House and a member having done something on the premises could not be arrested without first seeking permission from the Speaker. Rohani was not impressed. He, however, got the escape route as dictated by Narottam Mishra and refused a discussion and, following the uproar that ensued, adjourned the House for the day.
Rohani, facing allegations of having acquired properties worth over Rs 300 crore in Jabalpur, shows concern for his authority only if it suits his interest. When a former Lokayukta had initiated investigation of a complaint of financial irregularities by two Assembly secretariat officials, Rohani lost no time in sending a notice of breach of privilege to the Lokayukta and five officials of the Lokayukta Organisation who had helped the Lokayukta in the preliminary investigation.
Rohani had received support for his stand from Yagya Dutt Sharma, who was Speaker during the Arjun Singh regime but had later joined the BJP. His view was that registration of a case against two officials of the Assembly Secretariat and service of notices on them by the Lokayukta amounted to challenging the rights of the Speaker. The Assembly and the staff working there are under the jurisdiction of the Speaker and the Lokayukta had encroached upon the rights of the Speaker by starting action against the officials without the Speaker’s permission. Another former Speaker, Shrinivas Tiwari, had felt that the staff working in the Assembly secretariat did not enjoy the privilege. It was a different matter in the case of Speaker and members.
The Lokayukta, too, had quoted from the “Practice and Procedure of Parliament” by M N Kaul and S L Shakdher to point out that the privileges of Parliament are granted to members only so that they may be able to perform their duties in Parliament without let or hindrance.
What Parulekar did was on the Assembly premises. Speaker Rohani, who remembered his jurisdiction and authority in the case of Assembly secretariat employees, is looking the other way in the case of a member. A fine instance of duplicity of a person holding constitutional position!