The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crackdown clues from Nehru era
- Caught red-handed'

Dec. 12: For a Parliament grappling with the cash-for-questions crisis today, Jawaharlal Nehru’s unambiguous words in 1951 could serve as a lesson.

The country’s first Prime Minister, seen as the architect of modern India, had received a complaint that Congress MP H.G. Mudgal had received monetary benefits in connection with his dealings with the Bullion Merchants Association of Bombay.

Nehru ordered an inquiry by an ad hoc committee that found Mudgal guilty of receiving monetary benefits from the business association. It said Mudgal’s conduct was “derogatory to the dignity of the House and inconsistent with the standards which Parliament was entitled to expect of its members”.

Nehru got then Lok Sabha Speaker G.V. Mavalankar’s consent and on September 24, 1951, moved the resolution to expel Mudgal from the House.

“This case is as bad as it could well be. If we consider even such a case as a marginal case or as one where certain laxity might be shown, I think it will be unfortunate from a variety of points of view, more, especially because this being the first case of its kind coming before the House, if the House does not express its will in such matters in clear, unambiguous and forceful terms, then doubts may very well arise in public mind as to whether the House is very definite about such matters or not,” Nehru said.

“Therefore, it has become a duty for us and an obligation to be clear, precise and definite. The facts are clear and precise and unambiguous. The decision of the House should also be clear and precise and unambiguous.”

Mudgal got the hint and resigned before the House could expel him.

As the Lok Sabha could not expel Mudgal, Nehru moved an amendment, which said “Shri Mudgal deserved expulsion from the House and further that the terms of the resignation letter he gave to the deputy Speaker at the conclusion of his statement constitute a contempt of this House which only aggravate his offence”.

The earlier text said the House “resolves that Shri Mudgal be expelled”, but it was changed as he resigned on his own.

Fifty-four years later, the rules of morality and probity in public life seem to have changed drastically. Today, there were long faces in Parliament and the whispers that painted journalists as villains.

Privately, some said snoopy journalists were trying to lower public esteem for politicians. They probably need to read the book Practice and Procedure of Parliament by J.N. Kaul and Sunil Shakdhar carefully.

According to Kaul and Shakdhar, regarded as authorities on the functioning of parliamentary democracy: “In order to maintain the highest tradition in parliamentary life, members of Parliament are expected to observe certain standard of conduct, both inside the House as well as outside.

“Their behaviour should be as such as to enhance the dignity of Parliament and its members in general. The conduct of members should not be contrary to the usage, or derogatory to the dignity of the House or in any way inconsistent with the standards, which Parliament is entitled to expect of them.”

The book further says: “The House has a right to punish its members for their misconduct. It exercises its jurisdiction of scrutiny over its members for their conduct, whether it takes place inside the House or outside.”

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