Bhubaneswar: The Opposition Congress and BJP members on Wednesday sat on a dharna in the Well of Odisha Assembly protesting Speaker Niranjan Pujari's decision to expunge their statements on the Prakash Mishra case.
They rushed to Well of the House as soon as it assembled for the day and sat on a dharna. The members had referred the Prakash Mishra vigilance case yesterday during a debate on the law and order issue.
The Speaker adjourned the proceedings till 12.30 PM.
Pujari in a ruling had said any statement made in support or against Prakash Mishra would be expunged.
"During our absence you have expunged certain matters which is in violation of the Rules of Procedure. As per Rule 222 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Odisha Legislative Assembly, only words used in the debate which is or are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified may be expunged by you from the proceeding of the Assembly after bringing it to the notice of the Assembly," the Congress MLAs said in a letter to the Speaker.
"So we feel your ruling yesterday expunging portions of debate from the proceeding is illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic. As a mark of protest we have decided to sit on a dharna in the Well of the House during Question Hour today," they said.
"...What is the use of debate if expunged from the proceeding only because it exposed the misdeeds of the government? Democracy is dead," they said in the letter, which was read out by the Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra.
Mishra again raised the matter when the House reassembled at 12.30 PM.
"I have neither praised or criticised Prakash Mishra. I just referred the Prakash Mishra case in my speech yesterday. Therefore, there is no point of expunging my statements," Mishra said seeking a ruling from the Speaker.
"It is the right of the Speaker to expunge certain matters. But, as a member of this House, I have the right to know which portion of my speech is expunged," Mishra said.
The Speaker, however, declined to change his ruling.
"Whenever there will be a debate in this House, issues like this will come up. Whatever suits them (ruling party) will be recorded in the proceedings and those which don't will be expunged. This can't be a sign of healthy democracy," said Basanta Kumar Panda, leader of the BJP legislative party.