The meeting was to discuss Pegasus and Data Privacy but the Ministries, Departments and All the three departments that were supposed to attend the crucial meeting to discuss Pegasus and data privacy conveniently skipped the meeting.
Sources have confirmed to Vibes of India that a detailed three-page note has been submitted to Loksabha Speaker Om Birla to take action under the Parliamentary provisions for this unprecedented refusal by ministries and departments to attend the crucial standing committee on IT meeting.
The last-minute refusals from all three departments is a breach of the Constitution, asserts Tharoor in a formal communication to Loksabha Speaker Om Birla.
The controversy over the parliamentary standing committee meeting of the information technology that was to meet and discuss the Pegasus issue has taken a serious turn with the Committee chairman demanding action against the absent members and clearly establishing that this amounts to a breach of parliamentary privilege and contempt of the House.
Now, Dr Shashi Tharoor has formally asked Loksabha speaker Om Birla to take action for this “unprecedented “refusal of the Ministry and department” to remain present before the Parliamentary Committee.
Quoting Direction 59(1) of the Directions of Speaker, Shashi Tharoor has stressed,
“Where a ministry of Department or Undertaking is required to give evidence before a Committee on any matter, the Ministry or Department or Undertaking shall be represented by the Secretary or the Head of the Department or undertaking, as the case maybe:
Provided that the chairperson of the Committee may, on a request being made in this behalf, permit any other senior officer to represent the Ministry or Department or Undertaking before the Committee”.
The Wednesday meeting had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum after the BJP members, in a high drama that followed, refused to sign the meet’s attendance register. This was a premeditated BJP strategy. The meeting was to take up and discuss Pegasus and its’ abuse in India. The Wire has been at the forefront exposing the misuse and illegal use of Pegasus in India.
In a curious, unprecedented manner, the BJP members said they should not be marked present and they refused to sign. The Committee is led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor but since this was an unprecedented move in the history of the Indian Parliament, they failed to gauge the BJP strategy.
However, now citing rules, Dr Tharoor had put down the issue in paper and has sought action against the BJP MPs.
Not only did the BJP MPs not attend the meeting but even IT ministry officials who were informed about the meeting on July 20 which is a week in advance refrained from attending the meeting citing the ongoing Monsoon session of the Parliament.
“The officials wrote to the committee at the eleventh hour saying they won’t be able to attend as they are tied up with other meetings because of the Parliament session,” The IT ministry and department were also informed of the sitting on July 20 under the Rule 270 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Loksabha which empowers the Committee to send for persons, papers and records. All the three Ministries /department had confirmed their participation for the sitting,”, Dr Tharoor stressed in his letter.
He added, “however, just before the sitting was about to take place, I was informed by the Committee Branch of the Secretariat that email communications have been received in the afternoon around 3 pm on July 20 from the above three ministries/department informing that their representative will not be able to appear before the COmmittee”.
Interestingly, the meeting was scheduled at 3 pm but the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) forwarded an email, just 16 minutes before the meeting that is at 2.44 pm on July 28 seeking exemption from appearance before the Committee stating that “honourable Chairperson, Joint Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 has desired to have an urgent meeting with the Secretary and other senior officers of MeitY for discussion/clarification on The Personal Data Protection Bill at 15.45 hours at the CHairman’s Chamber in PHA”.
The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) also followed suit and forwarded a mail at 2.33 pm that is 27 minutes before the meeting seeking exemption from attending the meeting on account of urgent and pressing commitments related to the ensuring Parliament Session”.
The Department of Telecommunications that was also to attend this crucial meeting on Pegasus expressed their inconvenience to do the same. Ironically, this department informed the IT committee just before eight minutes that is at 2.52 pm that they would not be able to attend the meeting due to “urgent Parliament related matter relating to Parliament Questions listed for July 29”.