Delhi HC refuses to stay notice asking Mahua Moitra to vacate government accommodation
With the Trinamool Congress leader facing possible eviction, her plea stressed her duty as a Lok Sabha candidate for the 2024 polls
Expelled Lok Sabha Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Thursday failed to get any relief from Delhi High Court, which refused to stay the eviction notice issued to the TMC leader asking her to vacate the government bungalow.
Justice Girish Kathpalia said no specific rule has been brought before the court which dealt with the eviction of MPs from government accommodation after they cease to be lawmakers. "To conclude, in view of the pendency of the issue of expulsion of petitioner (Moitra) before the Supreme Court and the issue of extension of time to vacate the government accommodation being inextricably linked with that, coupled with the fact that as on date petitioner has no right, this court is not inclined to invoke jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India at this stage to restrain the operation of the impugned eviction order. Accordingly, the application stands dismissed," the court said in its order.
The court listed the petition of the TMC leader in which she has challenged the eviction notice issued by the Directorate of Estates (DoE) for further hearing on 24 January.
Also Read: Herald View: The taming of Mahua Moitra
Citing medical reasons, Moitra on Thursday urged the high court to restrain the authorities from evicting her from the government bungalow on cancellation of allotment following her expulsion. The expelled MP, who has challenged a notice by the DoE to vacate the government accommodation, pleaded that she should not be thrown out of the premises for the time being as she is a single woman and is undergoing treatment in a Delhi hospital.
Senior advocate Brij Gupta, representing Moitra, submitted that she has undergone a surgical procedure and is admitted to a private hospital. Doctors have advised her bed rest, the lawyer said, and urged the court to give her some time to vacate the bungalow, preferably four months.
Additional solicitor-general (ASG) Chetan Sharma and the Central government's standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, representing the DoE, opposed the plea saying there was no whisper of any medical or humanitarian condition in her representation to the authorities. They said 2,188 people are waiting for an identical accommodation.
The government counsel contended that despite her prayer for interim relief like a stay on her expulsion, the Supreme Court has consciously chosen not to do so. She has challenged her expulsion before the apex court. The court noted that Moitra was seeking extension of time in view of her medical condition and the difficulties she would face during campaigning for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
It, however, said one of the prayer clauses showed it was a matter of political expediency and not medical issues and that she wanted to retain the government accommodation until the results of the 2024 general elections are announced.
The court said Moitra was allotted government accommodation which was incidental to her status as an MP, and the status having ceased upon her expulsion that has not been stayed by the Supreme Court despite the hearing afforded to her, she currently has no right to continue in the bungalow.
"Accordingly, under article 226 of the Constitution, she cannot be granted protection as sought. The allotment of government accommodation to the petitioner was co-terminus with her status, which has come to an end upon her expulsion. No specific Rule has been brought before this court which would deal with the eviction of Members of Parliament from the government accommodation after they cease to be the members," it said.
It noted her 5 January representation to the authorities showed her constituency is Krishnanagar in West Bengal and said the ground of campaigning raised by her loses significance as it has to be done there and not in Delhi.
It added grant of extension for such reasons would also militate against the basic object of the enactment-the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act. "Nothing prevented the petitioner from seeking relief of extension of time to vacate the government accommodation by approaching the Supreme Court where the basic dispute of her expulsion is pending consideration," the high court said.
It noted that keeping in mind the medical condition of the petitioner as projected during arguments a query was posed to the respondents as to whether she could be granted some reasonable time to vacate, for which the ASG on instructions expressed willingness to allow 3-4 days.
The high court further noted that Moitra's counsel initially requested for time till March 2024 and thereafter said not less than a month is required, which was not acceptable to the authorities owing to a long queue of eligible applicants awaiting government accommodation.
The notice asking Moitra to vacate the bungalow immediately was issued to her on January 16. Moitra, who was expelled from the Lok Sabha on 8 December last year, was earlier asked to vacate the house by 7 January after the allotment was cancelled.
She was held guilty of "unethical conduct" and expelled from the house for allegedly accepting gifts and other favours from businessman Darshan Hiranandani in return for asking questions targeting his business rival Gautam Adani.
In a further setback for Moitra, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to pass any interim relief in her plea filed against her expulsion from the Lok Sabha following the 'cash-for-query' controversy.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta sought a reply from the Lok Sabha Secretariat and directed to list Moitra’s plea in the week commencing 11 March. The bench told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Moitra, that it will consider the application for interim relief in March.
Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the secretary-general of the lower house of Parliament, urged the apex court to not issue a formal notice, saying the issue of disciplinary proceedings against an MP is not amenable to judicial review as the Parliament holds its own sovereignty in such cases.
Mehta argued that Moitra’s plea is not maintainable and any interference by the judiciary into the functioning of the legislature will offend the separation of power provided under the Constitution.
After hearing the arguments, the bench decided not to issue any notice to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and the Ethics Committee of the Lower House, which were arrayed as respondent party in Moitra’s plea, and sought a reply from the Lok Sabha secretariat only.
Moitra had moved the court under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging her expulsion from the Lok Sabha. In her plea, the MP from Krishnanagar has termed the decision of her expulsion as "unfair, unjust and arbitrary".