Did Rahul Gandhi need government permission to travel to UK? Rules for MPs explained

Did Rahul Gandhi need government permission to travel to UK? Rules for MPs explained

Did Rahul Gandhi need government permission to travel to UK? Rules for MPs explained

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s London visit has been under a cloud of controversy since it began. First, the Gandhi scion was disparaged for questioning India’s existence as a nation. Then, he was attacked for meeting with ‘anti-India’ British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn. Now, government sources have revealed that Rahul skipped due procedure and did not seek political clearance for his visit to the United Kingdom.

As per an ANI report on Wednesday, the Congress MP from Wayanad skipped due procedure, and had not sought political clearance for the trip. They further revealed that Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Manoj Jha had all due permissions including the due political clearance for the same event. Jha had spoken at Cambridge University, a day ahead of Rahul Gandhi.

We take a closer look at what the rules say about MPs travelling abroad and the latest row over Rahul’s United Kingdom visit.

Travel rules for MPs

All public servants and public representatives have to follow certain guidelines when they travel abroad and need clearance for their visits.

As per the guidelines laid down by the Lok Sabha Secretariat (read here), MPs on non-official visits abroad have to seek permission from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

A look at the circular states: “If any invitation from any foreign source namely, government of any country, foreign organisations, etc, is received directly by a member, a copy of such invitation letter giving full details of the purpose of the visits and the hospitality to be accepted should be sent to:

>> the Ministry of External Affairs for political clearance and

>> the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division (FCRA), for accepting any foreign hospitality being offered during visits abroad.”

It further adds that once the two ministries grant the clearance, the MP shall inform the presiding officer of their respective Houses — the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha vice-president.

The circular also states that MPs have to ensure that their activities must give no impression that they are on an official visit and that they should “satisfy themselves about the credentials or the organisation/institution extending the hospitality.”

While these are the guidelines for non-official visits, no clearances are needed for a personal trip.

According to an RTI query, it is not obligatory for MPs to inform the secretariat regarding their private visits. A report in the Indian Express stated that some MPs do intimate their presiding officer as a matter of courtesy before going on a personal trip. But since the intimation is not compulsory, details of personal foreign trips by most MPs are not available

Congress vs government

The reports of Rahul not seeking clearance for his United Kingdom quickly turned into a Congress vs the government spat.

The Congress dismissed media reports that their former party chief needed “political clearance” to visit London, saying MPs do not need any such clearance from the government, unless they are part of an official delegation.

It has been reported that the Congress has said that Rahul had, in fact, taken FCRA clearance before his trip. Additionally, the party maintained that these were just ‘guidelines’ and not rules they had to abide by.

The Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “MPs don’t need political clearance from PM or government, unless they are part of official delegation.”

News agency PTI reported that Congress’ Pawan Khera also defended Rahul Gandhi, saying, “he (Rahul Gandhi) is not a journalist who needs clearance from PMO to do his journalism”.

With inputs from agencies

Read all the Latest News, Trending NewsCricket News, Bollywood News,
India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.