Friday, August 24, 2007

Should Ronen Sen be recalled?

I am sure by now all of you are familiar with the ‘headless chicken’ statement that was made by the ambassador of India to the US while giving an interview to the press.

The politicians, especially the BJP and the Left were baying for his blood since then, citing breach of parliamentary privileges. His comments are seen as an affront to the elected members of parliament.

I am a bit surprised as to the venom that is on display even in the Press. While the Hindu has called for recall, today’s ET appears to have taken a more reasoned approach.
It argues for a thorough codification of what can be called the parliamentary privileges. Concepts like contempt of court and parliamentary privileges do impinge on the freedom of expression. Therefore, while their existence should be welcomed, there has to be clear cut guidelines as to when a person is deemed to have breached the privilege. Should omnibus comments like the one made by our ambassador be deemed as an insult? I don’t think so. Some comments made in today’s ET deserve an excerpt. Take a look:

Criticism of legislative functioning, especially when comes from quarters outside the legislature, serves to enrich democracy. The parliamentary system is no more than the best possible form that enables such deepening and broad-basing of democracy. To privilege this form over content would brush the original democratic project against its grain. Legislative privileges must be so defined that nothing save the most egregious actions – such as deliberately misleading the legislature – are deemed breach of privilege.