New Delhi: Stating that Congress cannot be blamed for the logjam in Parliament, party leader Shashi Tharoor today said the onus of ensuring its smooth functioning was “as much” on the government as he asked the Narendra Modi dispensation to take the party’s concerns “very seriously”.
Speaking to reporters here, Tharoor said there will be constructive response from Opposition parties only if the government reached out to them in a “constructive way”.
At a time when Congress is up in arms against the government, Tharoor will on Friday introduce three private members bills seeking to amend Article 377 to de-criminalise consensual sex between consenting adults, offering rights to foreign nationals seeking asylum in India and amending Section 124A of IPC to ensure that the sedition term is not misused.
“The political responsibility of disruption should not be placed only on the opposition party or parties that are disrupting. The political responsibility goes as much to the government, its Parliamentary management and the overall attitude of the government to the opposition parties and the nation,” he said.
“My own view very much is that many of the concerns that the Congress party has been articulating inside and outside the Parliament, including those made today in the meeting with the President, should be taken very seriously by the ruling party,” the Congress leader added.
Defending Congress, the Parliamentarian said the party believed in debates and has “more talented” debaters than the government has on the treasury benches.
He also reminded that the first session after the NDA government came into being had seen 105 per cent business.
“So, what the Congress party has been saying, and I speak privately, I am not a spokesperson of the party… The Congress party has been saying understandably is that in our country there is an onus in the Parliamentary system on the government to make the Parliament run.
“And that means reaching out to the opposition in a constructive way. And when they do so, there will be constructive response,” he said.
On him presenting the bills at a time when the Congress is being accused of disruptions, Tharoor said him introducing the bills in private capacity was very much in sync with his party’s stand.
“Even though my party’s concerns which we have been articulating inside and outside the House are well known… Last Friday afternoon, the party did not object to the discussion on private member bills going ahead.
“And in fact, some Congress members had introduced private members bills last time. Therefore, I do not believe that I have been out of sync,” he added.
Tharoor, meanwhile, made strong pitch for decriminalising consensual sex between consenting adults.
Tharoor said he was “setting the ball rolling” to amend the Section 377 of IPC as government did not come up with a provision in this regard in the last 18 months, especially after the Supreme Court had in 2013 overruled a Delhi HC judgement striking down the section and had said “it was not for the Parliaments to pass laws in this regard.”
“The Victorian ideas of against the order of the nature will be taken out (if the amendment is accepted). This will help in eliminating colonial era relic,” he stressed.
Claiming that Section 124A of IPC that covers sedition was at present “very loosely” drafted, Tharoor expressed concerns that it could be “misused” to stifle “legitimate free expression of criticism of Government”.
“So, I am moving an amendment under which the sedition term will only apply when an individuals acts or says words which directly results in use of violence or incitement of violence or constitutes an offence which is punishable by life imprisonment already under the IPC,” he added.
On the National Refugee and Asylum Bill he is set to introduce, Tharoor said it aims at “codifying” a practice that sets up a formal mechanism that gives every foreigner to seek asylum in India.
“It is truly anomalous that we do not have a legally sanctifies procedure to govern the way we treat asylum seekers and refugees. I am proposing a law that will prevent us from returning people to the countries where they might be persecuted,” he added.
Tharoor expressed hope that he will receive support from his party and added that it would be welcoming if the government accepts them and turn them into laws.