NEW DELHI: The joint committee of Parliament examining the bill on data privacy pulled up Twitter representatives and asked why the social media platform had not acted against stand-up comic Kunal Kamra’s handle for his “offensive” tweets against Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and the Supreme Court.
The panel’s grilling of Twitter also triggered a war of words between BJP and Congress with former minister Shashi Tharoor questioning its mandate and committee chair Meenakshi Lekhi responding that Congress members were also part of the deliberations. The panel directed Twitter to submit an affidavit in a week on why it took no action against the “offensive” tweets.
Even as Twitter said it would respond to the panel’s queries, Tharoor, who chairs the standing committee on information technology, asked who authorised the panel to take up a matter not related to its mandate.
“Dear @M_Lekhi, as far as I am aware, your committee was formed for consultations on the Data Protection Bill and its mandate is to report on the statutory provisions continued in the draft bill. Could you clarify if you have taken on additional responsibilities and on whose authority?” Tharoor asked on Twitter.
“I expected better from a person heading the standing committee on IT. His own colleague (Congress MP Vivek Tankha) was present in the meeting and concurred with me on a public platform. Tharoor should check with him before displaying his lack of understanding. In any case, they must understand that national interest matters most. I am not interested in playing ping-ball between Congress and BJP over such issues,” Lekhi told TOI.
Tharoor’s question was echoed by Congress MPs Karti Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, both of whom said the joint committee had “no jurisdiction” over the matter.
Lekhi, however, shot back that “national interest” trumped all else. Lekhi said such public squabbling “suits the agenda of the likes of Twitter” which would prefer to escape scrutiny.
According to parliamentary tradition, committees firm up the subjects they will take up after they are constituted each year and don’t deviate from them. The issue of data privacy, however, has been taken up both by the standing committee on IT and the joint committee.