Mahua Moitra expelled from Lok Sabha, Opposition MPs walk out

Moitra denied chance to speak as government cites 2005 precedent under UPA; MP calls her expulsion ‘hanging by a Kangaroo court’ as Opposition members stage walkout

December 08, 2023 01:12 pm | Updated January 03, 2024 05:22 pm IST - New Delhi

Trinamool leader Mahua Moitra at Parliament House on December 8, 2023.

Trinamool leader Mahua Moitra at Parliament House on December 8, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid an Opposition walkout, Trinamool Congress member Mahua Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha on Friday over cash-for-query allegations.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had moved a resolution which said her continuance as a Member of Parliament was “untenable” and her conduct was “unbecoming of an MP”.

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The Trinamool MP was accused of taking bribes, including expensive gifts, from Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandani in return for asking in questions in Parliament.

Ms. Moitra was not allowed to speak on the floor of the House even though Trinamool leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay had nominated her as the main speaker. Citing a 2005 precedent under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in a similar expulsion process, Mr. Joshi argued against allowing her.

Speaking to reporters outside, she termed her expulsion as “hanging by a Kangaroo court”.

The report of an Ethics Committee, headed by BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar, had held Ms. Moitra guilty of “unethical conduct” and contempt of the House by sharing her Lok Sabha credentials - user ID and password of the Lok Sabha Member’s portal - with unauthorised persons.

Also read: Mahua Moitra expulsion | Supreme Court seeks Lok Sabha Secretary General’s reply on TMC leader’s plea

The proceedings, that went on for a little over an hour in the post-lunch session, saw some sharp exchanges between the Opposition and Treasury benches. Opposition members asked why the ethics panel didn’t examine Mr. Hiranandani or allow Ms. Moitra to cross-examine him. BJP MPs argued that she was given a chance by the committee to explain her conduct.

The Lok Sabha also witnessed two brief adjournments including one soon after the Ethics Report was tabled on the floor of the House at noon.

Before the proceedings resumed at 2 p.m., Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote an urgent letter to Speaker Om Birla to give MPs three to four days so that they could read the report that runs into hundreds of pages and prepare their response.

“Can anyone humanly read the report within two hours?” Mr. Chowdhury asked in the Lok Sabha when it reassembled and argued that the principle of natural justice demands that Ms. Moitra be heard.

Mr. Birla observed that in 2005, then Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had in a directive disallowed 10 Lok Sabha Members who were involved in a “cash for question scam”, to speak in the House.

Mr. Joshi added that the then Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee had moved a motion to expel the 10 members on the same day the report was introduced in the Lok Sabha.

BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi, who is a member of the Ethics Committee, said the issue involved the dignity of Parliament and Ms. Moitra was given an opportunity by the panel to present her case. “Opportunity was given but she misbehaved and walked out,” Ms. Sarangi said.

Congress’ Manish Tewari questioned why Ms. Moitra didn’t get a chance to cross-examine the alleged bribe-giver and made a forceful argument against political parties issuing whips to its members. Mr. Tewari said the Lok Sabha members were examining the report on Ms. Moitra as a jury and political parties cannot direct its members through a whip.

“It is like directing a judge to act in a particular manner,” Mr. Tewari said. Mr. Birla, however, urged the Congress leader to refrain for making such comparisons.

Janata Dal (United) MP Giridhari Yadav - one of the Opposition MPs who had earlier walked out from the Ethics Committee meeting after alleging that Ms. Moitra was asked personal and irrelevant questions – claimed that he too did not upload questions on the Lok Sabha website himself.

“I do not upload my questions myself. My personal secretary does it as I do not know how to operate a computer... I do not even remember my own password,” Mr. Yadav said. Objecting to his remarks, Mr. Birla said, “I request all members to prepare their own questions. This is against norms”.

When Ms. Moitra was not allowed to speak, Trinamool leader Kalyan Banerjee finally spoke and asserted that it was a violation of her constitutional right. ”Today, we are acting like a quasi-judicial body and the aggrieved party, Mahua Moitra, had a right to be heard”.

BJP’s Heena Gavit said the issue wasn’t about ruling or Opposition benches but about the dignity of Parliament. “The proposal of the Ethics Committee should be accepted and a message should be sent that anyone who does unethical practice will be expelled by this House,” Ms. Gavit said.

By the time the Parliamentary Affairs Minister moved the resolution of expulsion, Opposition parties belonging to the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) had walked out in protest.

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