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  Opinion   Edit  10 Dec 2023  AA Edit | Mahua Moitra's expulsion from LS is hard to justify

AA Edit | Mahua Moitra's expulsion from LS is hard to justify

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Dec 11, 2023, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Dec 11, 2023, 12:05 am IST

It remains a mystery how the ethics committee of the Lok Sabha has come to such a conclusion.

TMC leader Mahua Moitra with other opposition leaders after being expelled by the Lok Sabha during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. The Lok Sabha on Friday expelled Moitra after holding her guilty of sharing her credentials with others and accepting gifts from a businessman to extend favours. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)
 TMC leader Mahua Moitra with other opposition leaders after being expelled by the Lok Sabha during the Winter session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. The Lok Sabha on Friday expelled Moitra after holding her guilty of sharing her credentials with others and accepting gifts from a businessman to extend favours. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

The Lok Sabha’s decision to expel Mahua Moitra, Trinamul Congress member from Krishnanagar in West Bengal from the House for her “immoral and indecent” conduct, as Speaker Om Birla put it, is based on unverified charges and hence appears preposterous, undemocratic and unsustainable.

The expulsion of Ms Moitra is based on two sets of allegations. One, she accepted cash and gifts in lieu of asking questions in the House and two, she passed her parliamentary login and password to other for posting questions. A person accepting cash and gifts for performing her duty as a member of the House is unacceptable and there is no doubt that such a person who is convicted of such a crime is ineligible to continue as a member. The ethics panel found “serious misdemeanours” on the part of Ms Moitra.

However, it remains a mystery how the ethics committee of the Lok Sabha has come to such a conclusion. As per the report, and the explanation given by minister for parliamentary affairs, there is an affidavit of a former friend of the MP that he had given her gifts and sponsored her travel. There are other statements, too. The course of natural justice would have demanded that the assertions must stand transparent scrutiny so that they are proved beyond reasonable doubt. No such exercise was conducted before holding her guilty. In fact, she had walked out of the meeting of the panel feeling humiliated alleging that she had to face “unethical questions”.

The committee has also recommended an “intense, legal, institutional inquiry by the government of India in a time-bound manner” in view of the “highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal conduct of” of the member. In fact, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last month launched an investigation into the allegation. The agency has not even registered a first information report or a preliminary inquiry against Ms Moitra. The findings of the agency, which will ultimately tested in a court of law, would have formed a just base for the house to arrive at the culpability or otherwise of the member. Unfortunately, it did not wait for the agency even to initiate the probe.

The panel also wanted an “intense, legal, institutional inquiry” against her “criminal” conduct of sharing Lok Sabha login credentials to unauthorised persons. This is indeed a charge Ms Moitra has accepted as having committed. The house needs to explain why it chose to exhaust the most stringent of punishments, which in essence negates the choice of the people of her constituency, and by extension the people of India, for such a crime.

The political impact of the extreme step by a BJP-dominant house is yet to be seen. Ms Moitra entered the imagination of the anti-Modi portion of the political spectrum with her performance in the Lok Sabha but her stock within her own party was on a downward slide. The Trinamul Congress is now sure to make a serious attempt to capitalise on the extreme punishment meted out to its member in a state where the BJP had won 18 of the 42 seats in the 2019 elections. The expulsion will come handy for the Trinamul Congress and chief minister Mamata Banerjee to sharpen their attack on the BJP. It is highly unlikely that the hasty decision will add to the political capital of the saffron alliance ahead of the elections. 

Tags: mahua moitra, aa edit, expelled