TNS Explainer: The new unparliamentary words, what happens if MPs use them, and why the opposition hit at the Centre?

When the Indian parliamentarians enter their respective houses of the Parliament on July 18, they would search for new words to criticize both the ruling and opposition parties. What begins as a session with the presidential voting would end up with welcoming a new President and enduring unprecedented changes in the degree of words, as the sequel to a decree from the Lok Sabha Secretariat. 

With a major overhaul, it is sure that the upcoming parliamentary session would record a barrage of unparliamentary words. On Wednesday- July 13, the Lok Sabha Secretariat released a new booklet in which it has earmarked a slew of words both in English and other Indian languages as unparliamentary words. The changes have triggered a row as the opposition leaders have scathingly slammed the Centre for inducting common words such as 'abused', 'drama', and 'corrupt' as unparliamentary words.

The opposition leaders have disputed with the Centre over the changes and said that the BJP government has removed the words that are closely associated with it. The monsoon session would commence on July 18 and it is apparent that the booklet would have heated discussions in both houses. As the Centre is prepared to convene an all-party meeting ahead of the session, let's take a look at the new unparliamentary words in the parliament, what happens if the MPs use them, and how the opposition leaders have reacted to the controversial changes. 

The word game 

As per the booklet, the use of terms like 'Jumlajeevi', 'Baal Buddhi', 'Covid spreader', and 'Snoopgate' are moved to the category of unparliamentary words. Shockingly, the more commonly used words like 'ashamed', 'abused', 'betrayed', 'corrupt', 'drama', 'hypocrisy', and 'incompetent' have now become unparliamentary words and if an opposition MP claims the Centre-ruling BJP a corrupt government in the parliament, he/she would be facing consequences for using the unparliamentary words. 

There are many more...The English words like 'bloody', 'cheated', 'coward', 'criminal', 'crocodile tears', 'childishness', 'disgrace', 'donkey', 'eyewash', 'fudge', 'hooliganism', 'hypocrisy', 'mislead', 'lie', 'untrue', 'foolish', 'anarchist', and 'sexual harassment' are prohibited to use in the parliament. Besides these English words, the booklet carries dozens of words in Hindi that are banned to use in the parliament anymore. 

As part of the word game, these words would be expunged if used during debates and during other proceedings in both houses. According to reports, some words and expressions are declared unparliamentary from time to time by the Chair in different Legislative bodies in the country as well as in Commonwealth Parliaments and have been compiled by the Lok Sabha Secretariat for ready reference in the future. 

The latest compilation contains references to words and expressions declared unparliamentary in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state legislatures in India during 2021, besides those disallowed in some of the Commonwealth Parliaments in 2020. The list of expressions also includes any aspersions made against the Chair in both the houses in either English or Hindi, which shall be considered unparliamentary and are expunged from the records of Parliament. It however must be noted that the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker will have the last word in expunging words and expressions. 

What happens to MPs if they use such words

On a legal note, no action can be initiated against any MP in any court for using unparliamentary words and expressions in the parliament. Article 105(2) of the Constitution states that no member of parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof. However, the use of what has turned from common words to unparliamentary words would put the MP in a bad light as he/she would be castigated by the chair. 

At times, the incessant usage of such words would provoke the Chairman and Speaker to oust the concerned MP from the house. If the words mentioned in the new booklet are spoken or used by members, they will be deleted. According to Rule 380 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, "If the Speaker is of opinion that words have been used in the debate which are defamatory or indecent or unparliamentary or undignified, the Speaker may, while exercising discretion order that such words be expunged from the proceedings of the House."

How the Opposition leaders reacted

A league of leaders from various opposition parties has come down hard on such dramatic changes and attacked the Modi government and several leaders have challenged the BJP government to suspend them for using such words. The events suggested that the booklet has triggered a hotbed as there have been heated debates across the country.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and wrote, "New Dictionary for New India." He has also shared a poster which describes the word 'unparliamentary' as 'words used in discussions and debates which correctly describe the PM's handling of the government, now banned from being spoken." Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh wrote, "All words used by the opposition to describe the reality of Modi Sarkar now to be considered 'unparliamentary'. What next Vishguru?."

Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien took to Twitter and wrote, "Session begins in a few days. Gag order issued on MPs. Now, we will not be allowed to use these basic words while delivering a speech in Parliament: Ashamed. Abused. Betrayed. Corrupt. Hypocrisy. Incompetent. I will use all these words. Suspend me. Fighting for democracy."

Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra tweeted, "You mean I can't stand up in Lok Sabha & talk to how Indians have been betrayed by an incompetent government who should be ashamed of their hypocrisy." Congress MP from Tamil Nadu, Jothimani took to Twitter and slammed the Modi government for introducing the changes. She wrote, 'Why the government, which isn't corrupted, must fear the word 'corrupt'? Just close the parliament, Modi, no one will speak." 

On the other hand, the government has said that the opposition has created a lot of hue and cry about the compilation of unparliamentary words in the parliament. The Centre further said, "What is amusing is that they have tried to create a storm without knowing the facts. This list is brought out every year. This list is not a new suggestion, but merely a compilation of words already expunged in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha or state legislatures." 

"It also contains a list of words considered unparliamentary in parliaments of Commonwealth countries. Most of these words were considered unparliamentary even during the UPA government. The booklet is a mere compilation of the words, not suggestions or order", the Centre added.