The Trinamul Congress on Saturday demanded a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the Ethics Committee’s recommendation to expel party MP Mahua Moitra from the House in the cash-for-query case.
The demand was raised by Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Derek O’Brien, Trinamul parliamentary party leaders in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, at an all-party meeting held in Delhi ahead of the winter session of Parliament.
The ethics panel’s recommendation for Moitra’s expulsion is listed for tabling in the House on Monday, the first day of the session, which ends on December 22.
Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien chided the government for the leak of the ethics panel’s report and told the all-party meeting that they had seen claims in the media that a Trinamul member was “going to be expelled shortly”.
BJP Lok Sabha member Nishikant Dubey had forwarded to Speaker Om Birla the allegation by advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai that Moitra took bribes from businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions in Parliament.
Moitra says she is being victimised for asking questions in the House relating
to the business practices of the Adani group and its alleged proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Saturday’s development provides the latest indication that Trinamul would stand by the Krishnanagar MP, after an initial silence from its top leadership on the cash-for-query allegations and hints that Moitra would be left to fight her own battle.
On November 23, Mamata Banerjee had broken her silence and signalled support for Moitra by accusing the BJP of “planning her expulsion” from Parliament and saying this would end up boosting her popularity and electoral prospects.
On Saturday, a Trinamul source said the party would go all out to resist attempts to throw Moitra out of Parliament.
“The party wants a discussion on the issue in the Lok Sabha and that was conveyed in no uncertain terms during the all-party meeting,” the source said.
Among those who attended the meeting were Union parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi, defence minister Rajnath Singh, Congress MPs Jairam Ramesh, Gaurav Gogoi and Pramod Tiwari, NCP member Fouzia Khan, and RSP member N.K. Premachandran.
At the meeting, the Trinamul members stressed that the ethics panel’s report should not have been leaked to the media before being discussed in the Lok Sabha.
“Reports of parliamentary committees should not be made public so brazenly until they are tabled in the House,” one of them is said to have asserted.
Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien also accused the government of reducing all-party meetings to a “waste of time”.
That the recommendation for Moitra’s expulsion would make the winter session stormy has become clearer with the Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, writing to the Speaker demanding a review of the rules relating to the functioning of parliamentary committees.
Chowdhury, who has in the past spoken in favour of Moitra, wrote on Saturday that there was no clear-cut demarcation in the roles envisaged for the Privileges Committee and the Ethics Committee, especially when exercising penal powers.
He said no clear definition had been provided for the term “unethical conduct” and that while a “code of conduct” had been envisaged under Rule 316B of the Rules of Procedure, the code had not yet been formulated.
“If the media reports on the recommendations of the Ethics Committee on choosing to recommend expelling Mohua Moitra from Parliament are right, it would, perhaps be the first such recommendation of the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha,” Chowdhury wrote.
“Expulsion from Parliament, you will agree sir, is an extremely serious punishment and has very wide ramifications.”
Bandyopadhyay and O’Brien also reiterated a demand Mamata has made to the government not to pass the three bills that aim to replace the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Evidence Act.
In a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah, Mamata recently said that “extreme caution” and “due diligence” should precede any change to the existing statutes.
The three bills were recently cleared by the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs.