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Decode Politics: Rahul Gandhi, Om Birla again face off over Parliament mics. Who controls them?

For the second time in the new Parliament Session, Leader of the Opposition Rahul Gandhi claimed that his mic had been switched off in the House.

Rahul made the claim during his first address as the Leader of the Opposition on Monday, after his remarks that the BJP promoted violence set off a bedlam. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla reiterated in response that presiding officersdo not have any switch or remote control to turn off the microphones of members in the House, and objected to members “casting aspersions on the Chair” by alleging that this was done when they rose to speak.

“The Chair only gives ruling / directives. The member whose name is called gets to speak in the House. The mic is controlled as per the directives of the Chair. The person sitting in the Chair does not have a remote control or a switch for the microphones,” he said.

Pointing out that members of all political parties have representation on the panel of chairpersons who preside over the proceedings in the absence of the Speaker, Birla said: “At least those who occupy the Chair should not raise such objections.”

A manual put out by the Lok Sabha Secretariat in May 2014 says that each MP is provided an individual microphone and a switch set at their specific desks, with each of these desks numbered based on the designated seat numbers of members. Each switch board contains switches in different colours. A grey switch can be pressed for a request to speak. The microphones on the desks, with an LED, light up red when the mic is activated.

So, when a member wants to speak, the manual notes, they have to raise their hand to indicate the same to the Speaker, while pressing the grey button. The mic is “activated from the control room only when the member has been

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