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  Opinion   Edit  02 Nov 2023  AA Edit | Mahua’s walkout does not exactly serve her cause

AA Edit | Mahua’s walkout does not exactly serve her cause

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Nov 3, 2023, 12:21 am IST
Updated : Nov 3, 2023, 12:21 am IST

The difficulty posed by a walkout from the ethics panel hearing lies in whether such a panel can come to any conclusion ex-parte

TMC MP Mahua Moitra arrives to appear before Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, at Parliament House complex, in New Delhi, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (PTI Photo)
 TMC MP Mahua Moitra arrives to appear before Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, at Parliament House complex, in New Delhi, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (PTI Photo)

The predicament that the MP, Mahua Moitra, faces is of her own making. The tempestuous parliamentarian appeared before the ethics committee of Parliament to explain charges brought against her by a fellow MP on accepting cash and favours for parliamentary queries as a quid pro quo before walking out in a huff along with other Opposition MPs on the panel.

The Krishnagar MP may have a penchant for a vocal presence in Parliament and a liking for designer sunglasses and luxury handbags. That may be just part of her persona and it cannot be germane to the issue of whether she breached her parliamentary privileges in lending her login ID and password to the Indian Parliament portal to a Dubai businessman so he could frame the questions in her name.

In what has been a public slanging match involving an NRI benefactor, her former lawyer who she had described as “a jilted ex” and had turned against her and another MP who is the complainant, Ms Moitra has indulged in much whataboutery and brought in a lot of extraneous issues while trying to defend herself.

Given the divisive politics of the day and the partisan nature of the issue targeting an Opposition legislator, it was bound to end in acrimony even if that does not absolve her of having to responsibly face up to the challenge of proving she had not breached ethics or propriety once formal complaints had been lodged against her.

The crux of the matter is whether she has breached parliamentary practices in lending her login and ID to the parliamentary system and if so what sort of punishment could the ethics committee recommend to the speaker and what action the speaker can take in what is clearly a partisan issue involving a vociferous member of an Opposition party.

The more significant question is whether this scandal has to do with favours for queries and if so whether criminality and graft in the case of a public representative inviting stringent laws to do with corruption and disproportionate assets, are involved. More importantly, can such criminality be proved conclusively in a court of law?

Ms Moitra has, of her own volition, listed certain small articles and favours her Dubai friend had provided her while the benefactor had signed an affidavit admitting to bestowing favours, including those that cost money like sponsoring her travel and gifts.

Long before crossing the bridge to formal charges, if any, what the case highlights is a breach of propriety in terms of access to a secure system, of which she can, prima facie, be held guilty since she has confessed to sharing her login and ID to a person living abroad and not to any aide or staff member as might frequently be the case with legislators.

The difficulty posed by a walkout from the ethics panel hearing lies in whether such a panel can come to any conclusion ex-parte, but that is after she staged a walkout without extending the cooperation due to an inquiry. There are issues to be addressed on whether the person being questioned can make the rule on procedure.

In a nutshell, Indian politics can do without such confrontational episodes that do nothing towards serving the people who elect their representatives.

Tags: mahua moitra, aa edit