Cash for query: Mahua Moitra has questions of her own for Ethics Commitee, Dehadrai, Hiranandani
On the eve of her appearance before the Ethics Committee, the Trinamool MP sent them an open letter, demanding the right to cross-examine her accusers per the laws of natural justice
A day ahead of appearing before the Ethics Committee to clarify allegations against her acceptance of 'cash for (asking) Parliament questions', Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra demanded the right to cross-examine complainant Jai Anant Dehadrai (incidentally her ex) and "bribe-giver" and businessman 'friend' Darshan Hiranandani.
Sharing her two-page letter on X, Moitra said, "Since (the) Ethics Committee deemed it fit to release my summons to the media, I think it is important I too release my letter to the Committee before my 'hearing' tomorrow."
In her letter to Vinod Sonkar, chairman of the Ethics Committee, the Moitra said that she had received a letter from the Committee on 28 October, informing her that the Committee would hear her at 11 a.m. on 2 November.
"The complainant Dehadrai has provided no documentary evidence to back his allegations in either his written complaint and neither could he provide any evidence in his oral hearing. In keeping with the principles of natural justice, I wish to exercise my right to cross-examine Dehadrai," the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha MP said.
She continued, "In light of the seriousness of the allegations, it is imperative that the alleged 'bribe-giver' Hiranandani, who has given a suo moto affidavit to the Committee with scant details and no documentary evidence whatsoever, be called to depose before the Committee and provide the said evidence in the form of a documented itemised inventory with amounts, date(s), etc.
"I wish to place on record that in keeping with the principles of natural justice, I wish to exercise my right to cross-examine Hiranandani. I wish to place on record that any inquiry without allowing me the opportunity to cross-examine will be incomplete and unfair," Moitra wrote.
She also request the Committee to "answer" in writing and place on record their decision to either "allow or disallow" such cross- examination.
She also took a jibe at the Committee for not agreeing to shift the hearing date to after 5 November, saying she would nonetheless appear before the Committee on 2 November at 11 am.
Moitra questioned the Committee's "double standards" in this case as well as in the case of BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri abusing and threatening BSP MP Kunwar Danish Ali in the Lok Sabha.
She said, "A very different approach has been adopted in the case of Ramesh Bidhuri, who has a very serious complaint of hate speech (which was openly made on the floor of the House) pending against him in the Privileges and Ethics branch made by a member of this same Committee, Danish Ali, MP.
"Bidhuri was summoned on 10 October to provide oral evidence and informed the Committee that he was away campaigning in Rajasthan and would not be attending. No further date of his hearing has been given so far," Moitra wrote.
I wish to place on record that these double standards reek of political motives and do little to enhance the credibility of the Privileges and Ethics Branch.
She added that there was also the question of whether the Ethics Committee is the "appropriate forum" to examine allegations of alleged "criminality":
"I wish to respectfully remind you that parliamentary committees do not have criminal jurisdiction and have no mandate to investigate alleged criminality. This can only be done by law enforcement agencies. This check was specifically created by our nation's founders to prevent even the slightest misuse of committees by governments enjoying a brute majority in Parliament."
"In addition, if the Ethics Committee seeks a report from any department and wishes to rely on any such report (as per the chairperson's statement to the media), I should be given a copy of the report and allowed further to cross-examine the department concerned," the Trinamool Congress leader said.
Moitra also said that the 'Introductory Guide to the Committee on Ethics' (published by the Lok Sabha Secretariat in 2019) clearly states on page 2 that:
Ethics by definition is a very broad expression. It is a matter of morals of character and conduct of rules of behaviour of accountability and propriety. It is not a legalistic and technical matter to be enforced. It is a matter of uprightness and integrity to be voluntarily observed.p.2, 'Introductory Guide to the Committee on Ethics'
Moitra continued: "The Scope and Functions of the Committee as defined on Page 3 of the Guide clearly says the Committee shall 'formulate a Code of Conduct for members and suggest amendments or additions to the Code of Conduct from time to time (Rule 316 B)'.
"It is important to note that till date, the Committee on Ethics has not formulated any Code of Conduct for members and in fact the Committee has not even had any sittings in the past two years."
Moitra also took the position that in view of the lack of a structured code of conduct, it is all the more important that each case be dealt with in an objective and fair manner and that there remain no room for political partisanship.
The Ethics Committee is probing BJP MP Dubey's allegations that Moitra accepted cash and favours in exchange for asking questions in Lok Sabha on businessman Gautam Adani at the behest of businessman Hiranandani.
Earlier, Moitra been called before the Ethics Committee for the first time on October 31.
By then, Dubey and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai had already given "oral evidence" to the panel against Moitra.