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Lok Sabha ethics panel recommends expulsion of Trinamool  MP Mahua Moitra

November 09, 2023 05:07 pm | Updated November 10, 2023 02:19 pm IST - New Delhi

Six members vote in favour of the report while four Opposition MPs oppose it; panel has left it for the GOI to investigate and establish the ‘money trail’. In submission to panel, Moitra’s former partner advocate Dehradai says he has never met industrialist Hiranandani 

File photo of TMC MP Mahua Moitra. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

 

The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Thursday adopted a report recommending the expulsion of Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra from the Lower House over a “cash-for-query” allegation. While six members voted in favour of the report, including suspended Congress MP Praneet Kaur, four Opposition MPs opposed it.

The opposing members have filed dissent notes calling it a “fixed match” and saying the complaint filed by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, which the panel reviewed, was not supported by a “shred of evidence”.

The report will be now tabled before the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament scheduled to begin on December 4. Ms. Moitra can be expelled only if the House votes in favour of the panel’s recommendation. This is the first time, since the Ethics Committee came into existence in the year 2000, that the panel has recommended expulsion of a Parliamentarian. The Privileges Committee has taken similar steps, including recommending expulsion of 10 MPs, in the 2005 cash-for-query scam.

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“We will present the report to the Lok Sabha Speaker and he will take it forward,” ethics panel chairman and BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar told reporters at the end of the meeting.

The panel “in view of highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal conduct”, recommended “intense, legal, institutional inquiry by Government of India [GOI]” in a time-bound manner. The panel has left it for the GOI to investigate and establish the money trail. “The ‘money trail’ of cash transactions between Mahua Moitra and Darshan Hiranandani as a part of ‘quid pro quo’ should be investigated by the Government of India in a legal, institutional and time-bound manner,” it said.

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The panel also admonished its own member and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Danish Ali for “twisting/moulding the intent of question put forth by Chairperson”.

Assisting the panel in its probe, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) submitted a background note, in which it argued that several documents posted on the Lok Sabha website are not available in the public domain and “leakage of sensitive material” could be exploited by “inimical elements to the detriment of national security”. It said there was a danger of foreign agencies accessing such sensitive material specifically because Mr. Hiranandani, with whom Ms. Moitra is accused of sharing her login credentials, had many “foreign relatives”.

The MHA also said that an “unauthorised access” can also lead to other “potential hazards” such as “serious cyber attacks”, potentially disabling the system entirely and crippling the functioning of the Parliament. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) informed the panel that Ms. Moitra’s login was accessed from Dubai 47 times.

In his submission to the panel, advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, Ms. Moitra’s former partner, based on whose evidence Mr. Dubey filed the complaint, said that he has never met Mr. Hiranandani. But he said that he witnessed first-hand, phone conversations between Ms. Moitra and Mr. Hiranandani about exchange of money and gifts for asking questions. Ms Moitra had spoken to the industrialist with the speaker mode of her phone turned on since her earpiece was broken. He spoke of a secretive relationship between Ms. Moitra and Mr. Hiranandani.

“She was very particular that she would keep Mr. Hiranandani as far away from me as possible because I had expressed to her not on one but on multiple occasions that I do not like the sort of people that she had started mingling with and meeting with in New Delhi,” he submitted.

In her defence, Ms. Moitra insisted that even though she shared her Lok Sabha login credentials with Mr. Hiranandani’s office, she continued to control the questions posted through the ID since the question can be uploaded only after the OTP sent to the registered mobile number, which in this case was her personal mobile number.

BSP MP Danish Ali in his dissent note said, “The conclusion of this enquiry and this draft report was a fixed match from day one.” Speaking to reporters Mr. Ali also pointed out that his own complaint against BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri for levelling a communal slur at him has not been reviewed by the Privileges Committee. “There can’t be two sets of rules, one for the ruling party member and another for the Opposition member,” he said.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP P.R. Natarajan said there was “no documentary evidence of any cash or kind in bribe” provided by the complainant “either in written or oral” form. On the charge that Ms. Moitra shared her National Informatics Centre (NIC) portal login, he said no rules exist on sharing the credentials and none were provided to any MP. He argued that the portal’s login credentials provided to 800 Parliamentarians at any given time is available with 3,000 persons.

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