Rahul writes to LS Speaker, claims he was not allowed to speak in Par panel meet

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New Delhi, Dec 17 (PTI) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla claiming he was not allowed to speak freely in the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and sought his intervention, sources said.

In his letter, Gandhi urged the Speaker to ensure that the right of elected MPs to speak freely in parliamentary panel meetings is protected.

He also said the Speaker, being the custodian of Parliament, should ensure that the discussions and presentations in the panel on defence are in consonance with its role and objectives.

Gandhi and other members of his party on Wednesday walked out of the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, alleging that the panel's time was being wasted in discussing armed forces' uniform instead of the crucial issue of national security.

He was disallowed to speak at the meeting by the panel chairman Jual Oram (BJP) when he sought to raise the issues of Chinese aggression and better equipping the soldiers at the border in Ladakh, the sources said.

'It is the right of a member to point out digressions from the agenda and the purpose of the Standing Committee. The Committee is free to disagree with what I say, but the fact that the Chairman does not even permit a member to speak is a sad comment on how the government handles military affairs.

'Sir, as Speaker of the Lok Sabha and custodian of the House, I urge you to intervene and ensure that the discussion and presentations held in the defence committee are in consonance with the role and objective of the institution and that the right of elected MP's to speak freely is protected,' the Congress leader wrote.

He expressed his dismay over the contents of the meeting and the manner in which it was conducted and said it is meant to provide legislative oversight on the policies and decisions of the defence ministry, it being the premier interface between the defence forces and elected representatives.

Gandhi said the agenda for discussion at the meet was military uniforms, but taking into account the current military situation he felt this surprising.

'You are aware that we are currently facing a serious national security challenge on our borders and that China has forcibly occupied our territory and martyred 20 of our soldiers. There are many critical matters to discuss at a time like this,' he said.

The former Congress chief said he was extremely disturbed to find that the Chief of Defence Staff and the top brass of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who have important matters to deal with, had been asked by the chairman to spend an entire afternoon explaining the colours and different types of uniforms and insignia worn by different ranks in our forces.

'I mentioned our job, as members of the defence committee, was to discuss critical national security matters of a strategic nature. I also indicated that the topic of discussion and nature of presentation did not do justice to the type and level of discussion expected in the committee,' he told the Speaker.

However, Gandhi pointed out that he was repeatedly prevented from speaking and the panel chairman said 'aap nahi bolenge'.

'I politely requested the chairman a number of times to allow me to complete my intervention. He refused to allow me to do so. To register my protest at being prevented from expressing my views, I had no option but to leave the room,' he said.

The Congress leader said since he was away to his constituency Wayanad when the last meeting of the panel was held, he had later sent in his suggestions to Oram that were of critical importance for discussion in the panel.

Gandhi had sought to discuss the country's strategy against China's aggressive posture on the northern border in coordination with Pakistan and the country's response to China's reusable autonomous armed drones and unmanned systems strategy, its approach to information warfare and its rocket, strategic force and space capabilities.

He has also sought to discuss the inter-governmental agreement on the purchase of Rafale warplanes. PTI SKC ZMN