This directive from the Speaker comes in the wake of reported differences between chairpersons of parliamentary committees and its members on these matters as seen in the case of Facebook going soft against BJP leader T Raja Singh for making a hate-speech.
Sources have informed ET that Birla cited Rule 270 of Rules of the Lok Sabha that deals with powers of a committee to send for persons, papers and records. The Speaker is understood to have directed the chairpersons that they should give due consideration to this and other relevant rules and directions while selecting subjects for examination.
The Speaker has also stated that as per convention , the committees do not take those subjects for examination where the issue is pending in a court of law. The parliamentary committees are seen as “mini-parliaments” as they have representation from various political parties and the same rules of conduct and procedure as applicable to the two Houses are followed by them.
Rule 270 of the Lok Sabha conduct of business states- “A committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records: Provided that if any question arises whether the evidence of a person or the production of a document is relevant for the purposes of the committee, the question shall be referred to the Speaker whose decision shall be final. Provided further that government may decline to produce a document on the ground that its disclosure would be prejudicial to the safety or interest of the state.”
The Standing Committee on Information Technology had seen a tussle between chairperson Shashi Tharoor and BJP member Nishikant Dubey over summoning Facebook representatives on September 2 to depose before it on the subject “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in the digital space". Facebook is mired in a controversy over its public policy director for India and South Asia Ankhi Das suggesting to her organisation not to act against T Raja Singh in a case of hate-speech as doing so would harm the business interests of the group.
Dubey had alleged that Tharoor had acted unilaterally in summoning Facebook representatives as the issue should have been discussed first in the committee. In a letter to the Speaker, he had also reportedly said that Tharoor did not follow the rule which states that the Speaker’s permission has to be sought before summoning a private person or a state government official.
This letter from the Speaker to the chairpersons is likely to affect the summons to Facebook representatives for the September 2 meeting.
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