Two Bharatiya Janata Party MPs have written a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who also heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, NDTV reported on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Tharoor had summoned Facebook representatives to appear before a panel to explain the news report that claimed the social media giant had chosen to ignore hate speech made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party on its platform, to protect its commercial interests in India. The report alleged that Facebook India’s head of public policy, Ankhi Das, “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP even though they were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”.
The controversy emerged after The Wall Street Journal’s August 14 article which reported that Facebook had ignored incendiary posts by BJP leaders in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The two MPs, former Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore and Nishikant Dubey, said Tharoor should have discussed his intentions to summon Facebook with them before making an announcement. Both the legislators are members of the standing committee.
“Issuing statements as to who would be summoned and what would be the agenda of the meeting is absolutely uncalled for and is violative of the procedures of the Lok Sabha,” Rathore told PTI on Thursday. “The proclivity of the IT [Information Technology] committee chairman to speak to media first undermines the functioning of the committee members and the committee itself.”
In Dubey’s letter to the Speaker, he called for Tharoor’s resignation as the head of the standing committee, calling his tenure controversial. “Speaking in Spenserian English in foreign accent does not give one freedom to an individual to disregard parliamentary institutions,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, Dubey moved a notice for breach of privilege against Tharoor. The BJP MP alleged that Tharoor had sent the notice to Facebook without following rules and had “surpassed all limits of decency, ethics and basic tenets of Parliamentary procedures and practices”. On Tuesday, Tharoor had also moved a breach of privilege notice against Dubey, alleging that he had made “disparaging remarks” on social media over his decision to summon a panel meeting.