Following the "last-minute refusal" of the representatives of three ministries from attending a meeting of the Parliamentary committee on IT on Wednesday, 28 July, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the committee, has written to the Lok Sabha Speaker regarding the matter, requesting him to take note of the "breach of Parliamentary privilege."
Tharoor, in the letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, said that the "last-minute refusal of the Ministries/Department to appear before the Committee has been unprecedented and clearly constitutes breach of parliamentary privilege and contempt of the House," news agency ANI reported.
The meeting on Wednesday had been scheduled to discuss the subject of 'Citizen's Data Security and Privacy,' in light of the recently surfaced Pegasus spyware reports.
Central government representatives from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), Home Ministry, and Ministry of Communications were slated to appear before the panel and present evidence on the matter.
Asserting that the absence of the ministry officials has "undermined the authority of a Parliamentary Committee," Tharoor stated in the letter, "I hope you will take serious cognizance of his matter and undertake action as deemed appropriate under the rules."
Speaking about the "privilege motion" furthered against him by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, Tharoor told reporters on Thursday, 29 July, that the motion had no validity as the proper procedure was not followed in introducing the motion. The advancement of a privilege motion requires the Speaker to get the leave of the House before it can be introduced.
What Happened at the Parliamentary Committee Meeting
A meeting of the Parliamentary panel on IT on Wednesday that was supposed to see government officials being questioned on the Pegasus spyware issue, was put off due to a lack of quorum, news agency PTI had reported.
The 31-member Parliamentary committee on IT was scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the matter of 'Citizen's Data Security and Privacy'.
Some members of the committee had met in Parliament to discuss the issue on Wednesday. However, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the panel refused to sign the attendance register in protest, causing a lack of quorum required to hold the meeting.
Tharoor had said that panel members would be questioning officials from the Information and Technology Ministry and the Home Ministry on the Pegasus snooping issue. However, BJP members said that that since the Congress is not allowing a discussion on the issue in Parliament, it could not be discussed in the committee meeting, reported PTI.
“I am very disappointed that some elements on some issues have chosen to reduce this committee to some sort of a ping pong match which I don't believe is in the spirit of Parliament or parliamentary committee,” Tharoor was quoted as saying by PTI, after the abandonment of the meeting.
The Privilege Motion Against Tharoor
BJP MP Nishikant Dubey on Wednesday moved a privilege motion against Tharoor.
Saying that the Congress MP had lost the trust of a majority of the members on the Parliamentary committee on IT, Dubey demanded removal of Tharoor as the head of panel and accused him of discriminatory use of his position as chairperson, PTI reported.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)
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