Tharoor is the chairman of the panel while Dubey is a member.
In his letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Tharoor alleged that the BJP MP made “disparaging remarks” on social media over his decision to summon a panel meeting to discuss the alleged “misconduct” of Facebook.
He also took strong objection to Dubey’s remarks on Twitter that “the Chairman of Standing Committee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its members”.
Hitting back, Dubey, in his petition to the Speaker, stuck to his stand that Tharoor has no powers to summon any entity or organisation before the panel without consulting its members.
He said the agenda of any sitting of the Parliamentary Committee is decided after consultation with all the members of the parliamentary committee.
But, Tharoor never consulted the agenda of summoning Facebook and/or WhatsApp in any of the meetings of the parliamentary committee, he said.
“It is, therefore, a clear case, of Breach of Privilege by Dr. Shashi Tharoor in the capacity of Chairperson of the Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Information Technology,” he said in the notice.
He alleged Tharoor has committed a serious breach of privilege to use the parliamentary committee platform not only to serve his political agenda but also to tarnish BJP and “sensationalise a small incident by misusing his official powers”.
The war of words between the two leaders started after Tharoor said on Twitter that standing committee would like to hear from Facebook officials about its hate speech rules in the wake of a report in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that the social media giant refused to apply such rules to certain ruling party politicians in India.
Suggesting that Tharoor was using the committee’s platform for politics, Dubey alleged he decided to call Facebook officials to satisfy the ego of Rahul Gandhi who had alleged that BJP and RSS controlling the social media platform.
Anguished over the alleged “disparaging” remarks made by Dubey against his decision to call a meeting of the panel, Tharoor said it amounted to breach of privilege of his position as an MP and Chairman of the standing committee.
“The matter pertains to the disparaging remarks made by Dubey on a social media platform regarding my decision to summon a Committee meeting to discuss the alleged misconduct of Facebook and seek clarity on the measures that it intends to undertake to curb the spread of hate speech and fake news,” Tharoor said.
“Nishikant Dubey’s derogatory remarks have not only brought disrepute to my position as a Member of Parliament and Chairman but also to an institution that mirrors the will of the people of our country,” Tharoor alleged in the letter, a copy of which was also marked to Sunil Kumar Singh, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Privileges, Lok Sabha.
Tharoor urged Birla to issue necessary directions to initiate proceedings against Dubey for “committing a breach of privilege on multiple accounts and contempt of the House”.
Meanwhile, tagging a tweet on a media report about the rules and functioning of committees, Dubey on Wednesday tweeted, “In the last 11 years as an MP, I have neither violated any rules nor would I let anyone violate or abuse their power for their parties personal vendetta with agenda.”
Referring to the recently published news report in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that Facebook refused to apply hate speech rules to certain ruling party politicians, Tharoor in the letter underlined the serious nature of allegations made against the social media platform and its far-reaching implications on the citizens’ Right to Information.
Tharoor said he sought to convene the Committee meeting as part of the normal course of discussions on “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.
He alleged that Dubey’s remarks amounted to a three-fold breach of privilege.
“The contemptuous words used by…Dubey have cast aspersions on the intent and integrity with which I fulfil my duties as an elected representative…,” he said.
Such words constitute unwarranted vilification of the Committee’s name and the manner in which it discharges its functions, Tharoor alleged.
“His actions have painted an ignominious picture of the revered institution of Parliament by indicating that its functionaries have circumvented the process that they are expected to follow,” he said.
Citing rules and procedures of Parliament, Tharoor reiterated that the subject of the meeting had been unanimously approved by the committee members, Speaker’s and Lok Sabha secretary general’s offices and thereafter it was placed in public domain through publication in the bulletin.
“Therefore, to claim that the chairman has acted in excess of his authority to convene a meeting on a pre-approved agenda, and has proceeded without seeking the necessary approvals, is tantamount to contempt of the due procedure followed by the House,” Tharoor said.
Reacting to the controversy on the WSJ report, Facebook had on Monday said the company’s social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence, adding these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
“While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy,” a Facebook spokesperson had said.