‘Breach of privilege’: Questions loom over ‘unauthorised’ parliament videos shared by Navika Kumar

Congress MP R Sudha has written to Speaker Om Birla.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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On July 3, Times Now chief Navika Kumar tweeted four videos of Lok Sabha proceedings on her X account. But the source of her videos has come under cloud with Congress MP R Sudha writing to Speaker Om Birla seeking a probe.

While other journalists use footage from Sansad TV, which is the official and sole broadcaster of parliamentary proceedings, the Mayiladuthurai MP said the angle suggested that the videos shared by Navika were either from the treasury benches or allegedly “obtained” from Sansad TV without authorisation.

In the past, MPs have been suspended for filming house proceedings as it is considered a breach of parliamentary privileges. 

Kumar had posted videos showing disruption of proceedings by opposition MPs. “New videos of what was happening in the opposition benches when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking. Watch and decide. Just who will #SaveDemocracy,” she wrote.

Newslaundry went through the 135-minute footage on Sansad TV during Modi’s speech and did not find the videos from Kumar’s tweets to be featured on the broadcast. The lack of a Sansad TV logo on the side of the videos in the tweet, and Kumar’s usage of the word “new videos” suggested the videos are not from the broadcast aired on Sansad TV.

Newslaundry reached out to Navika Kumar and R Sudha for comment. This report will be updated if a response is received.

Questions raised

The Tamil Nadu MP wrote to Birla on Friday last week seeking a probe by the Committee of Privileges or a specially constituted Inquiry Committee.

“The instant case of unauthorised videographing of proceedings of Lok Sabha on July 1st, 2024, and uploading the same on social media tantamounts to grave misconduct and a breach of privilege and content of the house.”

Maadhyam, a civil engagement initiative that follows parliament proceedings, also raised questions for Navika Kumar, asking her how she accessed the video.

“Unauthorised videos from House leaking through selective sources could be sharing a distorted or one-sided narrative,” said Maansi Verma, founder of Maadhyam. “There have been incidents in the past, the most recent being the suspension of Congress MP Rajani Patil from Rajya Sabha, for allegedly recording a video on her phone of proceedings in the House which later made its way to social media. This can be considered to be unethical and a breach of parliamentary privilege.”

She said this also raised questions over censorship of Sansad TV and that “if they had been showing whatever is happening in the House, including protests by Opposition MPs, it would eliminate the need for such videos to be recorded in a surreptitious manner and leaked.”

In February last year, Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar had suspended Congress MP Rajani Ashokrao Patil for filming house proceedings, with a report on the issue still pending from the parliamentary privileges committee. At the time, Dhankar had said that “if the proceedings of the House are videographed…that itself is a misdemeanour. But that gets disseminated and if you see a particular tweet account, there has been massive viewership of that.”

The committee of privileges report in that case had highlighted the issue of video recording and said that information and publications, “including telecasting of audio or video of the proceedings of the Council is privileged and it can be disseminated to the outside world only with the approval of the chairman of Rajya Sabha.” 

In 2021, the then chairman of the house Venkaiah Naidu had told MPs that “unauthorised recording of the proceedings of the House and its circulation in the social media may lead to breach of privilege and contempt of the House”.

In 2016 too, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann had been suspended for videographing the Zero Hour notice ballot as well as how he entered the parliament. He was held guilty by a parliamentary panel for “putting security of Parliament House at risk”.

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