Are Official Records of Parliament Speeches Being Tampered With?

There have been multiple complaints of comments made in the Rajya Sabha being edited out of the official records.

opposition members in the rajya sabha

Opposition members protest in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: This story is literally ‘diabolical’ and raises questions about the sanctity of how parliamentary proceedings are recorded.

On Tuesday, CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury alleged that portions of his speech, particularly those critical of the Narendra Modi government, have been edited out of ‘verbatim record’ of the speech posted on the Rajya Sabha website. Yechury was referring to the speech he made in the house on Monday during a discussion on the motion of thanks to the president’s address.

The words ‘expunged’ from the transcript posted on the website were four – ‘deception’, ‘disruption’, ‘diversion’ and ‘diabolic agenda’. In his speech, Yechury accused the Modi government of indulging in all of this. None from the government protested at the time of the delivery of the speech, neither did the chair object to any of the words or ordered these to be expunged for being unparliamentary.

Yechury raised the issue in the house on Tuesday. He later said it was one of his least interrupted speeches in parliament and still some of the operative words of his speech had been expunged. Yechury lodged an official complaint. By evening, the words expunged earlier were restored, but raised deeper questions about the veracity of parliamentary records. “Why were only the words critical of the ruling party removed? Who ordered the removal when the chair hadn’t?” Yechury asked.

This isn’t the first such complaint. Last year, M.B. Rajesh, also a CPI (M) member, complained of portions of his speech that criticised the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh having gone missing from the transcript posted on the website. In Rajesh’s case, he was informed that the words were not audible but the MP from Kerala provided the secretariat with a live recording of his speech where the words he had spoken could be heard clearly.

In March 2016, during a discussion on the Aadhaar Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Congress member Jairam Ramesh disputed finance minister Arun Jaitley’s claim that two Bills in the 1980s were categorised by the then Congress governments as ‘Money Bills’. The opposition had contested the government’s claim that Aadhar Bill was a ‘Money Bill’ and can, therefore, only be passed by the Lok Sabha.

Ramesh told the house that he thought it cannot be true that the Juvenile Justice Bill of 1986 and African Development Bank Bill of 1983 were labelled as Money Bills. “When I heard the finance minister make that claim, I thought that cannot be true. But Mr. Jaitley is never wrong on facts, and I respect him for that, so I decided to check. I spent a few days in the Parliament library going through the records. And then I went to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to establish the truth. And now I can conclusively say that those two Bills, which the finance minister claimed had been passed as money Bills, were not money Bills. I have the confirmation of the Rajya Sabha secretariat,” Ramesh said.

Jaitley argued that the information was available on the Lok Sabha website. Eventually, Ramesh agreed that the information was indeed available on the Lok Sabha website and the finance minister hadn’t intentionally misled the house, but the episode raised questions on the veracity of information available on the parliamentary websites.

By arrangement with Business Standard.

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