The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In hour of shame, House finds unity
Rage and rush to redeem honour

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The heads of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha today came down heavily on the MPs who were caught taking bribes for raising questions in Parliament.

“The most stringent action will be taken against the guilty,” said leader of the lower house Pranab Mukherjee.

Minutes after the sting operation was telecast, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat swung into action.

After a meeting with Mukherjee, Opposition leader L.K. Advani and others in his chamber, Chatterjee issued showcause notices to the 10 Lok Sabha MPs named so far. They will have to reply by Wednesday and have been asked to stay away from the House till then.

The Lok Sabha has also decided to “set up a small committee of leaders to probe the charges”, MP Basudeb Acharya said. The committee, he added, would make the necessary recommendations.

Headed by Congress MP Pawan Kumar Bansal, the committee has been asked to give its report by 4 pm on December 21. “It is authorised to follow its own procedure. The report will be presented before the House for its consideration,” the Speaker said.

Shekhawat convened a meeting of the ethics committee in the evening and issued a showcause notice to the BJP’s Chhattrapal Singh Lodha, the lone Rajya Sabha member named in the operation.

“The ethics committee anticipated something like this. So we put in place a system that could take care of the guilty if it ever happened,” said the CPM’s Nilotpal Basu, who is a member of the probe panel.

“We are issuing a showcause notice to the member to reply within 48 hours,” chairman of the ethics committee Karan Singh said after the meeting.

Leaders of both Houses refused to say how the 11 would be punished. Asked if they would be stripped of their MP status, Basu said: “We cannot comment on that now.”

The Houses presented an unusual picture today with all parties united in their condemnation of the MPs caught on tape accepting cash. The Left, one of the parties to stay unscathed, did not take potshots at the BJP, which has the highest number of the MPs caught on tape.

Members of the Lok Sabha stood up one by one and demanded the “fastest and most stringent” action. “As it is, we have no honour among the general public. The matter has to be seen as an opportunity for Parliament to cleanse itself,” Basu said.

Acharya said the principles of natural justice would be adhered to and those charged would get a chance to defend themselves. But, he added, “the matter should be settled speedily so that it gives us an opportunity to separate the bad eggs from the good ones”.

Some Rajya Sabha MPs sought an independent inquiry and wrote to Shekhawat, asking for a fresh look at the process of selecting questions and the manner in which supplementaries are admitted during question hour.

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