Mahua Moitra case: LS yet to frame rules for online submission of questions, says former sec-gen
The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, which last met in July 2021, on Thursday began recording oral evidence from BJP MP Nishikant Dubey against fellow MP Mahua Moitra
The Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha on Thursday began recording ‘oral evidence’ from BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and criminal lawyer Jay Anant Dehadrai against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, based on the duo's complaint that Moitra accepted expensive gifts from real estate developer Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions in Parliament against the Adani Group, in order to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dubey had also claimed that Moitra had shared her parliamentary login ID and password with Hiranandani to enable him to post questions directly on her behalf on the Parliament portal. In an affidavit, Hiranandani has admitted to having used the password from Dubai, where he is based, though it is not clear how many times he used it.
However, in an interview to the Indian Express that appeared on Thursday morning, former Lok Sabha secretary-general PDT Achary pointed out that online submission of questions was launched only in recent years, and to the best of his knowledge, rules are yet to be framed by the Lok Sabha for submitting questions online. They should have been framed when the facility was launched, he said.
Earlier, MPs would submit questions in prescribed forms signed by them. While the forms could be delivered to the secretariat by others, signature of the member concerned was and remains mandatory.
These are some of the other points that the former secretary general made:
1. The Ethics Committee has no authority to punish a member or refer a case to the CBI or any other agency. It has to report to the Lok Sabha, which is required to decide on action to be taken and whether the MP is to be suspended or expelled.
2. The accused MP has the right to cross-examine the complainant and others who may have deposed against her. With the speaker’s permission, she can be represented by a lawyer for the cross-examination.
3. The accused MP can move the court only if she is expelled and loses her membership; or if there has been gross illegality or principles of natural justice are denied.
Achary recalled that the Ethics Committee had earlier dealt with the case of an MP who had taken a mistress or girlfriend on tour, passing her off as his wife, and decided to suspend the MP for 30 sittings.
On another occasion, when an MP was accused of taking a woman and a boy abroad, presenting them as his wife and child and presenting their passports, a special committee was set up to examine the allegation. The MP was expelled.
Achary told Indian Express that in his view, the allegation against Moitra should have been referred to the Privileges Committee as ‘cash-for-query’ is a serious breach of privilege.
A defiant Moitra has said that the allegations against her cannot be proved because no such thing ever happened. Meanwhile, Dubey has filed a complaint with the Lokpal, while criminal lawyer Dehadrai has sent his complaint to the CBI, besides Dubey.