‘We have a fit case for a privilege motion against HRD Minister Smriti Irani’

New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on February 29, 2016


Ghulam Nabi Azad alleges Irani misled people regarding Rohit Vermula’s death

Amidst the brisk business of the Budget, the Opposition was still formulating its strategy for the coming week, especially with regard to the privilege motion being planned against Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani. Taking time off between Parliament proceedings, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke to BusinessLine about why he thinks that the Centre is letting “extraneous factors” influence the business of the House. Excerpts:

What are your primary objections to the HRD Minister’s speech?

The Minister, in her speech in the Lok Sabha, said no one allowed any doctor near Rohith Vemula till the next morning. She also said the police were missing from the spot. This account has been refuted and proved to be false by three independent entities. First the Chief Medical Officer on Duty in the Hyderabad University campus, Rajashree, has given a statement corroborated by documentary evidence that she attended to Rohith Vemula within a matter of minutes.

The second contradiction has come from the police, who reached the spot within reasonable time of having been informed of his suicide. This account also goes against the Minister’s statement.

Third, and the most important testimony, comes from Vemula’s mother, who has no other reason to support either the police or the doctor’s claim except her belief that they are telling the truth. His brother too has corroborated this. The family, in fact, has more reason than anyone else to complain against the doctor and the police if Vemula had not been attended to. The Congress believes that the Minister misled Parliament on the circumstances around Rohith Vemula’s suicide. We also believe it is a fit case for a privilege motion against her.

We heard the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs saying the Opposition is only interested in discussions; you do not want legislative business to be carried out?

This is the single point I raised in the meeting with the Prime Minister – that your party and extended ideological family creates extraneous pressure on the working of Parliament, which does not exist in a vacuum. We are here to raise the issues of the people we represent.

Today, there is a report that quotes a minister in the Cabinet along with MLAs and other leaders of the ruling party issuing threats to the minority community. Does that not constitute hate speech? The Finance Minister said hate speech is not freedom of expression. We have not created these issues – what’s happening in JNU, Rohith Vemula’s suicide, the complete collapse of law and order in Haryana and the National Capital Region.

Will the issue of quota agitation in Haryana be raised?

There is complete collapse of law and order in the Capital’s neighbourhood. Over two dozen lives have been lost. Loot and arson have resulted in the property loss of approximately ₹50,000 crore. Compare this to what happened in Arunachal Pradesh where the Centre was so quick to impose President’s Rule. Not a mosquito had been killed in Arunachal and they sacked an elected government!

Do we then expect a repeat of the Winter Session?

Don’t ask me that question. The Congress is a responsible party. But we are not going to refrain from raising issues just because the Centre government thinks it has a majority and can bulldoze us. For the rest, you have to hear my speech in the Rajya Sabha.

Published on February 29, 2016
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