By Anjali Ojha
Parliament was disrupted for a while during the just-concluded winter session over the eulogisation of Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse, but his name has been struck off the records as it is considered unparliamentary.
A glossary of unparliamentary words has been compiled and ‘Godse’ is one such which cannot be used during debates.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari have been entrusted with the task of removing the ‘unparliamentary’ expressions from the archived record.
Some MPs got a shock during the winter session when they found ‘Godse’ was missing from the record of a debate. On the last day of the session, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien confirmed that the name was removed as it was unparliamentary.
Similarly, ‘Hitler’, ‘Mussolini’, ‘Idi Amin’ and ‘Ravan’, among others, are strict no-nos.
‘Anarchist’ is out, but ‘anarchy’ can be used.
According to a handbook for MPs about conduct in the house, the decision by the presiding officer on a word being unparliamentary is final and there can be no appeal against that.
“When the Chair holds that a particular word or expression is unparliamentary, it should be immediately withdrawn without any attempt to raise any debate over it. Words or expressions held to be unparliamentary and ordered to be expunged by the chair are omitted from the debates,” the handbook says.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader P. Rajeeve, who raised the issue of Godse’s name being deleted from the debate, said: “The list is there but the chair takes the decision, it is for the presiding officer to apply his or her mind and decide if the word shall be expunged”.
“You cannot compare someone to Godse, Ravan or Hitler… but it depends on the circumstances and rulings by the presiding officer is final. There are different rulings at different times depending upon the situation,” Rajeeve told IANS.
Interestingly, a glossary of unparliamentary words includes ‘communist’. It entered the list when an MP said in 1958 that “friendship does not mean that I should give my wife to the communists.”
The Lok Sabha secretariat has, in fact, an exhaustive book of words and expressions in Hindi and English that are considered unfit for use in Indian parliament. It runs into several hundred pages.
The latest edition of the book titled “Unparliamentary Expressions” came out in 2009 and is available for Rs. 1,700 at the reception counter of the Lok Sabha secretariat. While MPs used to get a 25 percent discount on the book till last year, a recent Lok Sabha bulletin informing members about the book did not mention any rebate.
The book was originally compiled in 1999 and contains references to words and expressions declared unparliamentary in the Central Legislative Assembly, Constituent Assembly of India (Legislative), Provisional Parliament, First to 14th Lok Sabhas (1952 to Feb, 2009), Rajya Sabha, state legislatures and some Commonwealth parliaments, including the House of Commons.
In 2003, the word ‘videshi’ (foreigner) was declared unparliamentary by the chair when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs used it for Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
“The chair had then expunged the word ‘videshi’ from proceedings, but the word is quite commonplace,” a senior MP, who did not want to be named, said.
The list also includes expressions like ‘lie’, ‘liar’, ‘bad man’, ‘rat’, ‘badmashi’, ‘bag of shit’, ‘goonda’, ‘ashamed’, ‘unfortunate’, ‘shy’ and ‘stunt’.
The words ‘lie’, ‘liar’ and ‘rat’ also figure in the British parliament’s list of unparliamentary words, as does ‘coward’, ‘hooligan’, ‘hypocrite’, ‘idiot’ and ‘swine’.
“MPs sometimes use considerable ingenuity to get around the rules; for example Winston Churchill famously used the phrase ‘terminological inexactitude’ to mean ‘lie’,” the British parliament’s website says.