Dubey also gave a breach of privilege notice against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla. ET has seen the two letters submitted to the Speaker.
Tharoor, in a letter to Birla filed under Rule 222 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, alleged breach of privilege of his position as an MP and chairman of the committee by Dubey. He termed Dubey’s remarks on social media questioning his decision to summon a meeting on the panel to discuss the alleged misconduct of Facebook as “disparaging”, and said the breach has been on three counts.
Dubey had said the chairperson does not have the authority to unilaterally decide the agenda of the meeting or the persons to be summoned, and alleged that Tharoor is championing a Congress agenda.
Tharoor maintained that the nature of allegations against Facebook are of a serious nature that have far-reaching implications on citizens’ Right to Information. He claimed that the decision to discuss the issue of “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms” was finalised in the first meeting of the committee.
The three counts on which there has been a breach of privilege, according to Tharoor, are: “contemptuous words” used by Dubey that cast “aspersions on the intent and integrity” of the MP, “unwarranted vilification of the committee’s name”, and painting an “ignominious picture” of Parliament by “indicating that its functionaries have circumvented the process that the MPs are expected to follow”.
In a counter notice for breach of privilege against Tharoor and Gandhi under Rule 227 filed on Wednesday, Dubey has said the former “surpassed all limits of decency, ethics and basic tenets of parliamentary procedure” both as an MP and chairperson of the panel.
He described the Ankhi Das-Facebook incident as a “personal issue of an individual” with the organisation, and alleged that soon after this case was reported in the media, “some renowned political leaders started searching for a political angle for gaining political mileage by defaming BJP”.
Referring to Gandhi’s tweet that BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India and spread “fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate”, Dubey said this is an “unsubstantiated allegation”.
This is contempt of the House as Gandhi has no “legally tenable documents/papers” to back such “canards”. Spreading rumours against MPs is a breach of privilege, Dubey said.
He stated in his letter to the speaker that Tharoor had never consulted the committee on summoning Facebook though he mentions “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platform” among the topics cleared for discussion. As per rules, the committee can only summon union government officials, Dubey claimed, adding that for others like state government officials and private entities, the speaker’s permission is needed.