Can we quote anything in this House, Jagdeep Dhankhar said.
Opposition and treasury benches on Monday engaged in a heated verbal duel in Rajya Sabha after a controversial remark by a DMK member during a discussion on Jammu and Kashmir bills, following which Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar expunged it and reminded the MPs of the responsibility that came with the freedom of speech.
Disapproving of M Mohamed Abdulla's remarks, Mr Dhankhar told the DMK member, who also described the abrogation of Article 370 as an attack on federalism, that the freedom of speech in the Upper House "is not unqualified" in reference to the Supreme Court judgement on the matter.
"Can we quote anything in this House? Can we go to the extent of it being seditious, challenging our integrity, going against our Constitution? Going against the judgement of the Supreme Court this day? That will not be acceptable," he said during the proceedings.
The DMK MP was speaking during a discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
Opposing the two bills moved by Home Minister Amit Shah for consideration and passage by the House, Mr Abdulla had invoked rationalist and Dravidian movement founder Periyar to support his points and asked the government to take steps to address several issues in Jammu and Kashmir.
To this, Mr Dhankhar remarked, "Can the House subscribe to this? Can you observe silence on this?" Observing that Abdulla was "abusing the platform", Mr Dhankhar expunged the remarks and said he had gone too far. He also asked the Opposition members why they were silent on such an issue.
Although Mr Abdulla insisted he was "wrongly understood" by the Chair, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman intervened and asked the Congress party members who are in alliance with the DMK if "they go along with that".
"How could this House be hearing this? Congress should stand up and say," she said.
Mr Dhankhar said, "In this House, the House of Elders, the Upper House can we countenance someone talking such kind of language? Determination on the basis of race, that goes against the very essence of the Constitution." The Chairman further said, "We all have taken oaths of the Constitution. How can we countenance such kind of misdemeanour by a member? This is not freedom of speech. This goes much beyond that.
"Every word the member has spoken cannot be accepted. It cannot be countenanced by anyone who believes in the legislation, who believes in our Constitution. I am expunging those parts." Dhankhar said, "We have freedom of speech here. That freedom comes with great responsibility. That message goes to the entire world." As the opposition and treasury benches exchanged heated words, Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said if the views of a member were not in consonance with the law of the land and business rules of the House, then the Chairman can expunge those remarks, but asserted that he won't accept it simply because "the treasury benchers shout and say it is unconstitutional".
Leader of the House Piyush Goyal asked Congress members if they agreed with what Abdulla said.
Senior Congress leader KC Venugopal asked the Chairman to go through records and verify in what context Periyar had made the remarks, which was quoted by the DMK member.
Mr Dhankar retorted, "Can we quote anything in this House? Can we go to the extent of it being seditious, challenging our integrity, going against our Constitution?" Mr Shah then intervened amid shouting from both sides and said it is for the chair to decide if the remarks by Mr Abdulla are to be kept in the records or not.
"I have a question - is Congress supporting the assertion made by the member... Are you supporting this statement of Abdulla?" Mr Shah asked.
In response, Kharge said Abdulla had only quoted Periyar and whether supporting it or against it can be a matter of discussion but "it is very undemocratic to stop someone from speaking in the house".
Congress member Jairam Ramesh asserted that his party does not support the statement.
DMK party leader Tiruchi Siva accused the ruling members of creating hype and trying to give a different colour to "a very ordinary statement" made by Mr Abdulla.
He asserted that DMK has always vouched for the integrity of India and stood up whenever the country faced external challenges.
Earlier, Mr Abdulla had also said the abrogation of Article 370 was an attack on federalism and said it was unconstitutional to downgrade federal democratic states into a less representative form such as a Union Territory.
In response, treasury benches asked if the member was "nullifying" the Supreme Court judgement passed in the morning.
Mr Dhankhar interjected and said the member needs to be "alive to the fact that in a historic judgement today the honourable Supreme Court has sustained what the Parliament has done.
"And therefore to speak against the judgement, which is the law of the land, is not appropriate. Your assertion was 100 per cent to the contrary," he said directing that the objectionable statements be expunged.
"All of us must keep in mind that when the judiciary has taken a view on a particular issue comprehensively, decisively, we need to abide by it," Mr Dhankhar said.
Vivek Tankha (Congress), V Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP), Syed Naseer Hussain (Congress), Sasmit Patra (BJD), K R Suresh Reddy (BRS) and Manoj Jha (RJD) also took part in the discussion.
During the discussion, independent member Kartikeya Sharma supported the bill and urged other members to welcome the draft laws.
BJP's Rakesh Sinha stated that the opposition has not accepted the abrogation of Article 370 and still believes in the existence of Babri Masjid.
IUML member Abdul Wahab said that his party is neutral on the bill.
BJP member Anil Jain said after abrogation of Article 370, the law and order situation has improved which boosted tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.
CPI member Sandosh Kumar P opposed the bill and demanded the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission BJP member Sumer Singh Solanki said the legislation will provide rights to displaced Kashmiris. BJP member Krishan Lal Panwar also supported the bill.
Shiv Sena (UBT) member Priyanka Chaturvedi welcomed the Supreme Court judgement on the abrogation of Article 370.
She reminded the government of its promise to restore peace in the valley, conduct assembly elections and bring back Kashmiri Pandits. TMC(M) MP G K Vasan supported the bill saying it is the need of the hour.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)