Question: You are a presiding officer of a legislative assembly of a state. During a no confidence motion proposed by opposition members, some members of ruling party indulged in violent assault on them. The scuffle has faced criticism from all sections of society such as media and citizens. There is an immense pressure on you to punish the perpetrators. The chief minister and other party leaders have directed you against any actions on the members as it will hamper their government.
As a responsible leader, what are the various options available for you? Provide reasons for your actions. Also provide long term solution for preventing such behaviour in future.
Answer: In a democracy, parliament and its dignity acquires high respect. As a chairman of the house, I would be ready to perform my duties towards enforcing parliamentary values and ethics.
However, there are various issues to be looked and analysed before coming to a conclusion.
Various options available
- Acting according to house procedures
I would follow the rule book to see what are the provisions available for me to act on such behaviour by members. I would try to stick to the book.
- No punishment after giving warning
I can give a stern warning to the members and warm them of serious consequences in case of repeating of the same acts. However it would be considered an unjust action considering the seriousness.
- Resigning from position due to inner conflict
If there is pressure on me from both party members and opposition members, I would be facing a dilemma. The best way would be to resign from the position if my internal ethics do not go along with party diktat.
- Appointing a committee to investigate and later take action
The best measures would be to buy time through appointment of an investigation committee to look into the events and give report. I would act based on the report.
Reasons for my actions
- Responsibility towards the party
If I will give a lighter punishment or no punishment, it would be due to my adherence to party opinion. This would prevent my party from public embarrassment. However this action is very unethical.
- Responsibility towards the citizens
As elected members representing citizens, it would be our duty to honour the faith imposed by them. It would therefore be better to inculcate some values and ethics in irresponsible members.
- Parliamentary dignity
Parliament and other assemblies have a certain dignity associated with the position. Members occupying the position must know the value of such position. To uphold such dignity, I would recommend punishment.
Measures to prevent future behaviour
MPs found to indulge in such irresponsible and non-dignified behaviour have to be prevented from contesting elections for the next assembly. This must be given only if actions are of absolute disgust such as attack on speaker, damaging property or harassment of women members.
- Long term suspension
Suspending members from attending the session of the house for a particular duration. This will be a warning not only to individual MPs but also their political parties.
- Suspending parliamentary privilege
Elected representative indulging in actions that hamper parliamentary dignity have to be stripped of their parliamentary privilege for a certain period. This will be a lesson for them to amend their ways and respect their position.
Thus, I would be leaning towards punishing the guilty members based on the evidence. In this case, my actions will be based on my duty as a chairman and not party member.