FPJ Explains: What happens when an MP uses unparliamentary words?

A new booklet by the Lok Sabha Secretariat lists out unparliamentary words and expressions. As per the booklet, words like ‘jumlajeevi’, ‘dohra charitra’, ‘baal buddhi’, and ‘Snoopgate’ have been declared ‘unparliamentary’ in both the Houses — Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The other words also include ‘anarchist’, ‘Shakuni’, ‘tanashah’, ‘taanashahi’, ‘dictatorial’, ‘Jaichand’, ‘Khalistani’, ‘vinash purush’, and ‘khoon se kheti’, which would be expunged if used during debates or otherwise in both the Houses.

The booklet has further listed words like ‘dohra charitra’, ‘nautanki’, ‘dhindora peetna’, ‘nikamma’ and ‘behri sarkar’ as unparliamentary expressions.

Words or expressions declared unparliamentary from time to time by the Chair in different legislative bodies in the country as well as in Commonwealth Parliaments, have been compiled by the Lok Sabha Secretariat for ready reference in the future.

Among some of the English words ‘bloodshed’, ‘bloody’, ‘betrayed’, ‘ashamed’, ‘abused’, ‘cheated’, ‘criminal’ and ‘crocodile tears’ and others are listed in the booklet by the Lok Sabha Secretariat as unparliamentary.

‘Anarchist’, ‘kala din’, ‘kala bazaari’, ‘gaddar’, ‘girgit’, ‘goons’, ‘ghadiyali ansu’, ‘ahankaar’, ‘corrupt’, and ‘khareed farokht’ have also been listed as unparliamentary.

But what if an MP uses thesewords and phrases?

Action cannot be initiated against any MP in any court for their ‘unparliamentary’ expression. Article 105(2) of the Constitution states that “no Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof.”

On the contrary, the concept of unparliamentary language itself denotes that MPs do not have the freedom to express themselves freely inside the House.

According to Rule 380 (“Expunction”) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha: “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.”

What is the history behind the custom?

The rules of the Indian Parliament have been borrowed from its British counterpart, which has recorded the ‘expunging’ of words or expressions during its proceedings from as early as 1604.

According to a report by British historian Paul Seaward, “An entry in the Commons journal from 1604 is often referred to as the first time the House took action. The House reviewed an ill-tempered debate the previous day on the subject of purveyance, and in particular, a speech of the eminent lawyer Lawrence Hyde. It was agreed ‘for a Rule of the House; Qui digreditur a materia ad personam [whoever descends from talking about the subject to talking about persons], Mr. Speaker ought to suppress.’

Unparliamentary words in other countries:

Some words and expressions are declared unparliamentary from time to time by the Chair in different Legislative bodies in in the country as well as in Commonwealth Parliaments.

In Australia, during a 1997 session of the Senate, the words “liar” and “dumbo” were ordered to be withdrawn and deemed unparliamentary.

In New Zealand, the word ‘commo’ (slang for communist) is not allowed. But the list is longer in Canada: with ‘evil genius’, ‘Canadian Mussolini’, ‘sick animal’, ‘pompous ass’ is also considered unparliamentary.