From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Curtailing unparliamentary expressions
The Lok Sabha secretariat recently released a booklet of unparliamentary words that will henceforth be banned and if used, will be expunged, it created an uproar among the opposing parties.
- In the early days of parliamentary functioning in England, members would challenge one another to a duel if they felt dishonoured by another member’s speech.
- It led to the Speaker of the House of Commons removing the offending words from the written proceedings.
- In 1873, the constitutional theorist Erskine May started recording words and expressions that the Speaker considered unparliamentary in an eponymous guide to parliamentary procedure.
- Later editions of the book laid down the principle of parliamentary language.
Who decides the nature of a word
- MPs have freedom of speech in Parliament.
- But the presiding officers of Parliament have the final authority on what gets recorded in the day’s proceedings.
- MPs can also draw attention to any unparliamentary words and urge the chair to delete them.
- Any reporting of the parliamentary discussion that includes the deleted portion is a breach of parliamentary privilege and invites the ire of the House.
- Deleted words are then added by the parliament secretariat to its compilation of unparliamentary expressions.
- Why context is important? In any language, the context in which an individual uses a word is critical.
- “Context” means how the word is said, the circumstances in which it is said and when it is said.
Issues with addition of unparliamentary words
- Effectiveness of measure: The first issues about the list is its effectiveness in maintaining decency in parliamentary debates.
- Impact on the debate: The second that that needs to be considered is the effectiveness of such a list help in promoting or stifling discussion.
- Role of technology: Technological advances have ensured that Parliament can no longer control how its proceedings are recorded and disseminated.
- As a result, even if Parliament edits its record, the unparliamentary expression will be available online.
- In such a scenario, a compilation of the words classified as unparliamentary will not deter an MP from using them.
Parliament is all about the cut and thrust of debate. And in a political discussion, a restriction of unparliamentary expression, without considering context, will unnecessarily stifle the voices of MPs.