TODAY -

Unparliamentary expressions not words

Free Thinker *



"I love my wife", sounds good and Parliamentary; "I love your wife", is obnoxious and unparliamentary; "I love Pakistani wives", is highly unparliamentary, defamatory, inflammatory, illegal and unconstitutional, etc, etc. 'Love', is a beautiful word, it can't be unparliamentary. It all depends on the context. So, the culprit is the context, not the word.

The Assembly Session is knocking at the door and the Parliament Session is also starting tomorrow. So, it is high time for our lawmakers to remind themselves to avoid provocative unparliamentary utterances in the "House". Almost every word is innocuous when it stands alone. When the words are used/ misused the issue of objectionability crops up.

If there is a discussion in the "House' on corruption; will it be possible to have a fruitful discussion without the word 'corrupt' (which is identified as an unparliamentary word). So, we must understand the crux of the matter i.e., the context in which the word is being used, not the word.

When you say that "MLAs are clean but the people are corrupt"; is it Parliamentary or unparliamentary? I really don't know. But let us not blame the term "corrupt".

You have to become a chamcha to get a good political post; here the word chamcha may not be unparliamentary. However, if you say that the chamcha of the CM has taken over the coveted post, this may be objectionable and unparliamentary.

'A donkey has become the Minister', maybe an unparliamentary expression. 'Donkey is a hardworking animal'. The second sentence is absolutely Parliamentary and decent too. Then, why blame the poor donkey – and make it unparliamentary.

To expunge the obnoxious expressions are the duty of the Presiding officers in a " House". However Hon. MLAs or MPs are supposed to control themselves –and behave and speak in a dignified manner. Of course, they have the liberty to say anything in the "House".

However, there are certain rules and conventions which are to be followed. Shouting is not banned, but it is against the dignity of the House. Jumping and dancing in the 'well of the House' is not a Parliamentary practice or norm.

Under what circumstances, in which situation, with whose reference, an expression becomes unparliamentary or a word or a term or a phrase becomes objectionable has to be ascertained by the Speaker. Earlier the objectionable part or parts used to be expunged by the Speaker from the records or proceedings. These days when the 'House' is on live stream, it becomes impossible to delete the controversial parts instantly.

It is a tricky situation. Once it is put on the net, it remains there always; we can simply keep the record of the proceedings straight by editing, amending, or deleting (video/audio/written) accordingly.

Suppose the word 'drama' is unparliamentary, there can be a situation like - 'Laluji does a lot of drama', this expression may be treated as unparliamentary. Whereas ' Laluji enjoys watching drama', it may not be unparliamentary.

Likewise, in the Assembly, if an MLA says, 'our Hon. Minister is incompetent, it may be unparliamentary; whereas if the MLA says,' officers are incompetent, it may not be unparliamentary. Sometimes subjectivity is also the key to deciding unparliamentariness.

"Arvind is an anarchist", this expression may be treated as unparliamentary; "an anarchist is the one who creates chaotic conditions" - this is not unparliamentary. Then, why should we blame the word 'anarchist'?

Of course, no one, even the Court, can summon or pull up the legislators for using foul language in the "House"; only the Presiding officer or the Privileges Committee can do something. But, the decorum and dignity of the "House" must be maintained.

In the Eighties, there was a ruckus inside the Manipur State Assembly; chairs were broken, microphones were uprooted and thrown, desks were turned upside-down, and the Speaker's chair was allegedly urinated upon. Thank God, nobody was badly injured, but Parliamentary democracy was deeply hurt.

Debates should be decent, demonstrations must be democratic, and protests ought to be peaceful. Once you start distortion, there is no end. Unpalatable words beget more dirty words. Maintaining dignity and decorum in the "House" is the collective responsibility of all the lawmakers - MLAs or MPs – it can't simply be the onus of the Chair.

Whoever is compiling unparliamentary 'words', stress should be on the expression not on the words. Words can hardly be unparliamentary but expressions can be. So the context is important. 'Robin Hood was a robber', it is Parliamentary; 'Netas are robbers', it may be unparliamentary.

So, from now onwards – let's give emphasis on expressions, not on words. The nomenclature of the publication/book/pamphlet may be changed from "Unparliamentary words" to "unparliamentary expressions" or simply " Expunged words or expressions ". In fact, words are harmless, usage makes them menacing.

"Kiss my child", is Parliamentary, whereas "kiss my ass", is absolutely unparliamentary". So, mind the language, not the word. Assemblies & Parliament may kindly note.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on July 19 2022 .



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