Supreme Court postpones Mahua Moitra expulsion case to 2024

Expelled from the Lok Sabha without being given a chance to speak in her own defence, the TMC leader alleges "substantial illegality" and "arbitrariness"

Former Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra (photo: National Herald archives)
Former Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra (photo: National Herald archives)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court, which had agreed to hear the case of the expulsion of Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra before the court closed for winter vacations, has now postponed the hearing to next year.

It will now be heard on 3 January 2024.

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and S.V.N. Bhatti said that they had received the file in the morning, but Khanna said he would need more time to read the file and hence listed the matter for the new year. Friday, 22 December, is the last day before the Court closes for its winter vacations.

In her petition, Moitra accused the parliamentary ethics committee of "breaking every rule" when they looked into the cash-for-query allegations against her and recommended her expulsion. She has alleged “substantial illegality” and “arbitrariness” by the committee.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi had made an appeal before Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, as the chief justice of India (CJI) was part of a five-judge bench hearing a Constitutional matter. Kaul, however, said that the CJI would take the call on this matter and that it should be mentioned before him.

Later, Singhvi appeared before the CJI to seek a listing for either Thursday, 14 December, or Friday, 15 December.

Chandrachud in turn had asked Singhvi to send the request on email and added that he would look into listing it soon. "The matter may not have been registered. If an email is sent, I would look at it right away. Please send it," said the CJI. Singhvi said he would send the email immediately.

The Krishnanagar Lok Sabha MP from West Bengal, Moitra was expelled on 8 December for alleged 'unethical' conduct. The ethics committee chairman, Vinod Kumar Sonkar, tabled his report during the afternoon session, prompting immediate chaos in the House.

The Lok Sabha then proceeded to expel the West Bengal MP after a heated debate in the Lok Sabha over the panel's report, during which Moitra was not allowed to speak. Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion to expel her from Parliament for 'unethical conduct', which was approved by a voice vote.

The 49-year-old MP was facing charges of allegedly having received cash and gifts from businessman Darshan Hiranandani in exchange for asking questions in Parliament that were critical of the Narendra Modi government.

On 14 October, Supreme Court lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), alleging that she had accepted bribes from Hiranandani. Dehadrai forwarded a copy of the complaint to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, seeking to address alleged corruption and money laundering.

Moitra has denied all allegations and dismissed Dehadrai as a "jilted ex." In response, Mr Dehadrai wrote to the Delhi Police, claiming he feared "a very serious threat to his life". Moitra, however, denied any bribery and demanded the opportunity to cross-examine Hiranandani.

Moitra did not accept the ethics committee’s initial summons to appear on 31 October. She said that that the committee's chairman had publicly announced her summons on live television before she received the official notification. She agreed to appear before the committee on 2 November, but later she staged a walk-out on that day.

In a letter to Speaker Om Birla, she accused the panel as a whole of engaging in “proverbial vastraharan (stripping)” and underscored that the questioning was biased and unfair.

The CBI has already filed a preliminary FIR in the case.

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