Don't do or say anything that could damage India's image: Naidu to RS members

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New Delhi, Mar 13 (PTI) Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday urged members of the House not to do or say anything that could damage India's image and might be used by the country's enemies against it.

Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day orientation programme for new members of the Upper House, Naidu stressed that 'discuss, debate and decide' is the mantra of democracy and that members should not resort to disruption.

He also said while free writing and expression are allowed in a democracy, they 'shouldn't cause disaffection in society'.

Naidu called upon members not to cause disruption citing rules. He noted that Rule 267, often cited by opposition members, should be used on rare occasions as a 'Brahmastra' for emergent or extraordinary situations.

'The House frequently runs into problems on account of repeated recourse to certain rules,' he told the new members.

'If you start seeking recourse to (Rule) 267, you cannot run the House. It is very rarely used. It is like 'Brahmastra', (which is used) when other 'astras' (weapons) do not succeed. If you (frequently) start taking recourse to 'Brahmastra', it becomes an 'astra',' he said.

Rule 267 calls for setting aside of business of the day to take up a discussion on the issue pressed.

It has been quoted by opposition members during the ongoing budget session to debate on issues like farmers' problems and high fuel prices, leading to frequent disruptions last week.

Asking members to speak and work for a united and inclusive India, the Rajya Sabha chairman said, 'Discussing issues which are not connected to us and going out of the way while trying to paint the country in a negative light is not going to help.' 'We may have political differences. We oppose each other. But at the same time, when the country is concerned, we should not do anything or say anything which will damage the country's image which our enemies will use and say this has been said in the Indian parliament.

'We shouldn't give them such a scope because unity, integrity, safety and security of the nation is vital for all,' he said.

Naidu said every stage of passing laws offers opportunities to oppose or support a bill.

'You have the power to block a legislation provided you have the numbers. One cannot obstruct physically. Then that is the negation of democracy,' he said.

'Brute majorities have been used by all parties. I don't think it was used only by some and opposition parties know that the majority is given by people and the majority is decided on the floor of the House,' he said.

Stressing that the mantra for democracy is 'discuss, debate and decide', he said let the government propose, the opposition oppose and the House dispose as there is no other way out.

Opposition members have accused the government of pushing through the farm laws amid a din in the Upper House in September last year.

'People say don't pass any bill in a din. Some chairmen, after retirement, wrote about it. I have found an easy solution to this - 'No din, no passage of the bill in the din',' Naidu said.

'You can't create a din and then say don't pass it (bill). Your legislative mandate is to support or oppose a bill. You can oppose and the House has to decide as the House is supreme,' he noted.

Naidu gave 12 tips to new MPs to be effective parliamentarians and advocated informed, credible criticism of the government and not just for the record.

He advised them to know the state of the nation to make a difference, saying it is not important for how long they speak but what they speak. He asked them not to make vague, repetitive interventions and said defying the Chair is disrespect to the House.

The Rajya Sabha chairman observed that there is a misconception about privileges that can't be invoked for criticising each other.

'If someone obstructs you from discharging your responsibility, it leads to privilege. If you criticise each other and say privilege is affected, it is not so,' Naidu said.

He said free speech and expression are allowed in a democracy but they 'shouldn't cause disaffection in society'.

He said one has both rights and responsibilities and the presiding officer is the custodian of rules while the Chair's decision is final.

Naidu also said in Parliament, people should not take recourse to religion, region, caste, colour and should not try to bring divisions 'We can argue for justice for different sections. One of our student leaders had to resign from the Oxford University because of racial discrimination. I am not going into detail. But such things are happening in so-called mature democracies. We should avoid them,' he noted.

The vice president also said that he will be happy the day if they speak in their mother tongues and simultaneous translation is available. 'Not just here, I want this practice in the Supreme Court, high court, legislatures of various states, in administration at every level. Should administer the state in people's language.' Senior members Anand Sharma, Naresh Gujral, Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Singhvi, spoke on 'Its role and contribution to Indian polity'; 'Importance of Question Hour'; 'Raising matters of public importance'; 'Parliamentary Privileges' respectively to the newly-elected members. A number of newly-elected members of Rajya Sabha, including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, attended the programme. Deputy Chairman Harivansh was also present on the occasion. PTI SKC KJ