On expunction powers in Parliament

On expunction powers in Parliament


The inaugural special session of the 18th Lok Sabha was characterized by vigorous debates and contentious exchanges. The crux of the discord centered on the expunction of remarks made by Opposition leaders in both Houses of Parliament.

  • Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar ordered the expunction of segments of Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge’s speech, which was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
  • Concurrently, in the Lok Sabha, Speaker Om Birla expunged parts of Rahul Gandhi’s comments about the Prime Minister and the BJP.

GS-02 (Indian Polity)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is Expunction Power in Parliament?
  • When Are Remarks Expunged?
  • Remarks Against an MP
  • How Do Officers Expunge Remarks?
  • The Relevance of Expunction in the Digital Age

What is Expunction Power in Parliament?

  • It refers to the authority granted to the presiding officers to remove specific words, phrases, or expressions from the official records of parliamentary proceedings. This power is essential for maintaining the decorum and dignity of the House.
  • Article 105 of the Indian Constitution provides MPs with certain privileges and freedom of speech within Parliament. However, this freedom is not absolute and is subject to the rules of the House and other constitutional provisions.
  • The presiding officers, namely the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, can order the expunction of remarks that they deem to be “defamatory, indecent, unparliamentary, or undignified.”

When Are Remarks Expunged?

  • Parliament meticulously records all spoken words during its proceedings. The expunction of remarks is undertaken when the presiding officer determines that certain expressions are inappropriate.
  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat maintains an extensive list of unparliamentary words and expressions. According to the rules of parliamentary etiquette, if the Chair deems a word or expression unparliamentary, it must be withdrawn immediately without further debate. Expunged words or expressions are omitted from the printed debates.
  • Expunction can also be applied at the discretion of the Speaker or Chairman for broader reasons. These reasons might include words that are prejudicial to national interest, detrimental to maintaining friendly relations with foreign states, derogatory to dignitaries, offensive to national sentiments or religious susceptibilities, likely to discredit the Army, in poor taste, or otherwise objectionable. This practice ensures that the official records reflect the decorum expected in parliamentary discourse.

Remarks Against an MP

  • If an MP makes an allegation against a colleague or an outsider, Rule 353 of the Lok Sabha outlines the procedural framework to be followed. The rule requires advance notice of the allegation, upon which the concerned Minister conducts an inquiry and presents the facts when the MP makes the allegation in the House.
  • This rule does not prohibit the making of allegations but ensures they are substantiated by facts. However, this rule does not apply to allegations against government Ministers, as the Council of Ministers is accountable to Parliament.
  • MPs have the right to question Ministers and make imputations against their conduct as part of parliamentary oversight.

How Do Officers Expunge Remarks?

  • The Chairman and Speaker are vested with the power to order the expunction of remarks under Rule 261 in the Rajya Sabha and Rules 380 and 381 in the Lok Sabha.
  • Rule 261 states that if the Chairman believes a word or words used in debate are defamatory, indecent, unparliamentary, or undignified, they may order those words to be expunged from the proceedings.
  • The Lok Sabha has a similar provision. Expunged portions are marked by asterisks with an explanatory footnote stating “expunged as ordered by the Chair.” If the Chair directs that nothing will go on record during a member’s speech or interruption, the footnote “not recorded” is inserted.
  • This process aims to maintain the dignity of the House and ensure that the official records reflect appropriate parliamentary conduct.

The Relevance of Expunction in the Digital Age

  • The relevance of the practice of expunging remarks has come under scrutiny in the digital age. Despite expunged content being removed from the official records, it remains accessible due to live telecasts of proceedings and the widespread circulation of screenshots and videos on social media.
  • This raises questions about the effectiveness of expunction as a tool for maintaining parliamentary decorum in an era where information is readily available and disseminated instantaneously.


Way Forward

  1. Enhancing Transparency: To uphold the integrity of parliamentary proceedings, there should be greater transparency in the process of expunging remarks. Clear guidelines and consistent application of rules can help avoid allegations of bias.
  2. Encouraging Accountability: MPs should be encouraged to use their privileges responsibly, ensuring that their remarks contribute constructively to debates. Any allegations made should be based on facts and follow the procedural framework outlined in the rules.
  3. Public Awareness: Increasing public awareness about the rules and procedures of Parliament can foster greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of maintaining decorum and discipline in legislative proceedings.