‘Expulsion of TMC MP extremely serious punishment’: Adhir writes to LS Speaker

New Delhi : Expulsion of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra from Parliament is “an extremely serious punishment and has very wide ramifications”, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Saturday, pointing out that there is “no clear definition of “unethical conduct” and a “Code of Conduct” is yet to be formulated for the Lower House MPs.

Chowdhury, usually a bitter critic of the Trinamool, told the Speaker “I am sure that under your leadership and control, no injustice will be done.”

He also pointed out that before taking up the Mahua Moitra case, the Lok Sabha ethics committee had dealt with a limited number of complaints and “the punitive action recommended being confined to admonition, reprimand and suspension from the sittings of the House for a specified period.”

Chowdhury’s letter to Birla assumes significance as it comes just two days before the ethics panel is set to submit its report in the House on Monday in which it has recommended Moitra’s expulsion for the remainder of the current Lok Sabha.

The report of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee recommending the expulsion of Moitra in the alleged “cash-for-query” case will be tabled in the lower house on Monday.

“As per records, prior to Ms Mohua Moitra’s case, the Ethics Committee of Lak Sabha has dealt with a minuscule number of cases which mainly pertained to purported acts of deviation from the general norms of conduct and the punitive action recommended being confined to admonition, reprimand and suspension from the Sittings of the House for a specified period. If the media reports on the recommendations of the Ethics Committee on choosing to recommend expelling Ms Mohua Moitra from Parliament are right, it would, perhaps be the first such recommendation of the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha. Expulsion from Parliament, you will agree Sir, is an extremely serious punishment and has very wide ramifications,” Chowdhury wrote.

A number of Opposition leaders maintained that they would oppose any move by the government to expel Moitra.

In his letter, Chowdhury also pointed out that the ethics panel that “The Dubai-based businessman who purportedly had access to the “log-in credentials” of the Member, Ms Mahua Moitra to the Lok Sabha portal and was placing questions on her behalf was, as per reports, possibly not called by the Committee for deposing. It is also not known why the businessman chose to turn against the Member despite his interests being served by way of posing questions by using the login credentials.”

“Accepting gifts and giving gifts, which may appear to be expensive depending on the yardstick applied, is a common social practice, and it would be extremely difficult to link or attribute accepting gifts to be a money trail for deriving favours,” Chowdhury added.

The Congress leader also claimed that Moitra’s case has no similarity with the “cash-for-query” scam in 2005 in which all 11 MPs were expelled from the House.

“All concerned in the 2005 case, including the media personnel, who carried out the Sting operation, and members accused of having indulged in acts of a misdemeanour were examined on oath, their evidence recorded and made part of the report of the Panel. It is not clear whether the well-established procedure was followed and a money trail that is irrefutable has been established in case of the complaint or allegation against Ms Mahua Moitra,” Chowdhury wrote.

The Congress leader further pointed out that while rules say proceedings of the Ethics panel are strictly confidential, in Moitra’s case, “the Chairman of the Ethics Committee as well as the complainant member were openly parading their views and passing judgments”.

He added that there are “grey areas” in the processes followed in investigating and reporting on the allegations levelled against Moitra, and argued that “advancements in, and adoption of digital technologies has brought about a sea change in the processes followed in conducting Parliaments Business, including the Question Hour, as a result of which Members may become susceptible, and unwittingly find themselves on the “wrong side”.”

The Congress floor leader urged further the Speaker to have “the entire processes relating to the jurisdiction and procedures followed examined and such remedial measures, as needed, taken towards streamlining the functioning” and said, “I am sure that under your leadership and control, no injustice will be done, and the processes relating to the functioning of Parliament and conduct of the Business of the House is smoothened for the benefit of all Members of the House.”