Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, under fire for his remarks on Indian democracy in London, has again written to the Lok Sabha Speaker requesting permission to respond to "totally baseless and unfair charges" hurled at him by senior Ministers in the Lok Sabha. He cited house conventions while making the request, and also pointed out that the same rule was earlier invoked by one of the Union Ministers.
"I am seeking this permission under the conventions of Parliamentary practice, the constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice and Rule 357 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha," he said.
The rule allows members to, with the permission of the Speaker, make a personal explanation even when there is no question before the House.
"But in this case no debatable matter may be brought forward, and no debate shall arise," it specifies.
Mr Gandhi accused the members of the ruling government of making "scurrilous and defamatory claims" against him both within and outside Parliament.
"As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly allow me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for personal explanations," he said.
Rahul Gandhi pointed out that Ravi Shankar Prasad, MP and then Minister, had invoked the same rule in the past to give an explanation regarding Jyotiraditya Scindia's comments on him in the Parliament.
"Furthermore, there are several examples available on the Lok Sabha Digital Library which show that this right isn't restricted to responding to statements made within Parliament but extends to allegations made in the public domain as well," his letter said.
Parliament, like any other institution, is bound by the Constitutional Rules of Natural Justice, which are a guarantee against administrative arbitrariness, he said. They ensure that every person has a right to be heard in a cause with which they are concerned, he added.
"Surely, you would agree that Parliament of all institutions cannot abdicate the responsibility to respect this right when it doesn't suit the ruling regime," the letter read.
He further informed the speaker that he would be away, in Karnataka and Kerala, on March 21 and 22.
There has been a political stalemate in the Parliament for seven consecutive days over Mr Gandhi's remarks, with the BJP calling for an apology, while the opposition has called it an excuse to divert attention from their demand of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the Adani-Hindenurg issue.
Efforts by the Lok Sabha speaker, in an all-party meeting today, to resolve the issue and get the house to function normally again, failed as both sides refused to blink.
"How can the Oppn demand for a JPC into the PM-linked Adani scam be linked to the BJP's demand for an apology from @RahulGandhi on totally baseless accusations. The JPC is on a real, documented scam. The apology demand is a hoax being raised to divert attention from the Adani scam," Congress MP Jairam Ramesh tweeted soon after the meeting.
Several opposition leaders earlier today protested in the Parliament corridor, and hung a huge banner saying "We want JPC" from the first floor of the building.
Rahul Gandhi has refused to apologise, and said he will respond to the allegations in the Lok Sabha. BJP sources, however, said they won't let him speak unless he apologises first, even outside the Parliament.
At Cambridge University, Mr Gandhi had said that Indian democracy is under pressure and opposition voices are being stifled. "The institutional framework which is required for democracy -- Parliament, free press, and the judiciary, just the idea of mobilisation, and moving around all are getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy," he had said.