Quashing Debate

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India’s parliament suspended a record number of opposition lawmakers this week, prompting criticism against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it seeks to pass a controversial criminal reform bill, CNN reported.

Earlier this week, speakers in both houses of parliament suspended 141 opposition lawmakers – 95 from the lower house and 46 from the upper chamber – for disrupting the legislature with protests.

The suspended legislators had demanded a debate about a major security breach in parliament last week after two men stormed the chamber, chanting slogans and releasing colored gas.

They described the suspensions as a “complete purge,” adding that it occurred “so that draconian bills are passed without meaningful debate.”

The suspensions came as lawmakers were about to debate a set of bills, including one that would overhaul the country’s criminal justice system.

On Wednesday, the lower house approved by vocal votes three bills related to the criminal justice reform, despite a majority of opposition lawmakers not being present, Bloomberg noted.

The changes are aimed at replacing the current colonial-era legislation and will revamp definitions of certain felonies. It will also increase punishment for other crimes, such as terrorism, mob violence, and crimes against the nation’s security and sovereignty.

At the same time, parliament has two other draft laws on the agenda, including a telecommunication bill that critics allege will infringe on the privacy rights of citizens by giving the government power to intercept electronic communications.

Most of the suspended lawmakers are from the INDIA alliance, a coalition of opposition parties seeking to defeat Modi and his BJP in next year’s elections.

Critics have accused the BJP of stifling opposition and undermining democracy in parliament, allegations the party consistently denies.

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