Cash-for-query case: Mahua Moitra contests Ethics Committee summons, asks for extension
The TMC MP has also questioned why the Ethics Committee heard the complainant before giving her a chance to appear
In a written response to the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, senior TMC leader and MP Mahua Moitra on Friday said she would not appear before it on 31 October in relation to the cash-for-query allegations levelled against her by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, owing to prior engagements, and instead would appear after 5 November.
She has also questioned why the committee heard the complainant before giving her a chance to appear. "Chairman, Ethics Comm announced my 31/10 summons on live TV way before official letter emailed to me at 19:20 hrs. All complaints & suo moto affidavits also released to media. I look forward to deposing immediately after my pre-scheduled constituency programmes end on 4 Nov," she posted on X.
Backing up her request for additional time, Moitra cited the example of BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri, who had used communal slurs against Bahujan Samaj Party MP Danish Ali in parliament. Bidhuri had told the Privileges Committee that he would not be able to appear before it on the designated date as he had prior commitments in Rajasthan, where he has been made BJP’s election in-charge in Kota.
In addition, Moitra has also brought up businessman Darshan Hiranandani, who has filed an affidavit on the matter. Under these circumstances, Moitra said, “His affidavit in the public domain is extremely scant on detail and provides no actual inventory of what he has allegedly given me. Given the seriousness of the allegations and in keeping with the principles of natural justice it is imperative that I am allowed to exercise my right to cross-examine Shri Hiranandani and it is also imperative that he appear before the committee and provide a detailed verified list of the alleged gifts and favours he allegedly provided to me.”
On Thursday, Dubey told the Ethics Committee that it was an "open and shut" case and Moitra should be disqualified.
According to sources, 11 of the 15 MPs who are members of the committee were present at Thursday’s meeting. Opposition MPs were against summoning Moitra. Eventually, chairman and BJP MP Vinok Kumar Sonkar called for a vote in which there was a 5-5 split between the ruling party and the Opposition MPs, and the chair got to cast the deciding vote. Several Opposition MPs also questioned the chairman for calling the complainant first and not the accused.