Lok Sabha speaker too busy to reply?

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla did not acknowledge the request made by Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang to depose before Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communication and Information Technology

Sophie Zhang, LS Speaker Om Birla
Sophie Zhang, LS Speaker Om Birla
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Shalini Sahay

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and his secretariat, it appears, neither acknowledged the request made by Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang to depose before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communication and Information Technology, nor sent a reply denying her request.

Zhang posted the following on social media on May 16:

“It's been 13 months since I came forward as a whistleblower, and 6 months since the Lok Sabha asked for Speaker Om Birla to approve my testimony. I still have not heard from the honorable speaker. I no longer believe that I will ever hear from him.

In 2019, I discovered an IT cell ran by a sitting LS MP. I repeatedly asked FB to decide, but received silence - they didn't want to act, but feared the optics of refusing. It's deeply concerning that my offer to testify to the LS on this case has been met with similar silence.

I have been interviewed from NDTV to Republic TV. The LS Committee on IT voted unanimously to seek my testimony - no one from the INC/BJP opposed! The only official blocking my testimony is the Speaker. This is not a Congress issue, AAP issue, or BJP issue. It is an Indian issue.

For the last 6 months, I've refused inquiries regarding the state of my testimony and additional details of my work. Due to my deep and abiding respect for India's laws and institutions, I wanted to give her leaders a chance to act before airing their dirty laundry in the open.


But as the honourable Speaker has refused to respond to the Lok Sabha, press, myself, or anyone, I consider him to have effectively denied my testimony and rejected the interest of the LS in my work. 13 months is long enough for anyone to give a simple yes/no answer.”

The Parliamentary Standing Committee met six times during the last one year and held its last meeting in April. The Committee members were told by the chairman Shashi Tharoor that he had sought the Speaker’s permission to allow Zhang to depose in November, 2021. No reply had been received from the Speaker, he informed members.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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Published: 20 May 2022, 12:34 PM