Home NEWS Mahua Moitra matter goes to LS Ethics Committee: What it does and...

Mahua Moitra matter goes to LS Ethics Committee: What it does and who all are in it | Political Pulse News

Mahua Moitra matter goes to LS Ethics Committee: What it does and who all are in it | Political Pulse News
Mahua Moitra matter goes to LS Ethics Committee: What it does and who all are in it | Political Pulse News

Responding to the allegations levelled by Dubey, Moitra has said the Speaker should first probe the “multiple breach of privileges pending against Dubey and other BJP leaders” before initiating any motion against her.

The Speaker appoints members of the committee for one year and at present it is headed by the BJP’s Vinod Kumar Sonkar. The other committee members are Vishnu Datt Sharma, Sumedhanand Saraswati, Aparajita Sarangi, Dr Rajdeep Roy, Sunita Duggal, and Subhash Bhamre of the BJP; V Vaithilingam, N Uttam Kumar Reddy, Balashowry Vallabbhaneni, and Preneet Kaur of the Congress; Hemant Godse of the Shiv Sena; Giridhari Yadav of the JD(U); P R Natarajan of the CPI(M); and Danish Ali of the BSP.

Since coming up over two decades ago, the committee — its last meeting, as per Parliament website, was on July 27, 2021 — has heard several complaints, but these have largely been of a light nature. More serious complaints in the past have been heard either by the Committee on Privileges or by a committee specifically set up by the House.

In 2005, 11 MPs were expelled — 10 from the Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha member — in the infamous cash-for-query scam based on the report of the P K Bansal Committee. Bansal was a senior Congress MP. The BJP protested against the Lok Sabha’s decision to expel the MPs, demanding that the Bansal Committee report be sent to the Committee of Privileges so that the parliamentarians could defend themselves.

Former Lok Sabha Secretary General P D T Achary said while there was “a lot of evidence” in the 2005 case — it was based on a sting operation — the challenge here will be to link the questions asked by the West Bengal MP to a money trail.

Beginning of the committee

A Presiding Officers’ Conference in Delhi in 1996 first mooted the idea of ethics panels for the two Houses of Parliament. Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman K R Narayanan constituted the Upper House’s Ethics Committee on March 4, 1997 — it was officially inaugurated two months later in May — to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of members and examine cases of misconduct referred to it. The Rules applicable to the Committee of Privileges also apply to the ethics panel.

The genesis of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee is different. A study group of the Committee of Privileges of the Lok Sabha visited Australia, the UK, and the US in 1997 to look into practices pertaining to the conduct and ethics of legislators. It drafted a report for the constitution of an Ethics Committee but the Lok Sabha was dissolved before the report could be laid on the table.

It was tabled in the 12th Lok Sabha but before the Committee of Privileges could take a view on it, the Lok Sabha was again dissolved. The Committee of Privileges finally recommended the constitution of an Ethics Committee during the 13th Lok Sabha. Late Speaker G M C Balayogi constituted an ad-hoc Ethics Committee in 2000 and it became a permanent part of the House only in 2015.

As things stand today, any person can complain against a member through another Lok Sabha MP along with all evidence of misconduct and an affidavit stating that the complaint is not “false, frivolous or vexatious”. A member, too, can complain against another member with evidence without any need for an accompanying affidavit. The Committee does not entertain complaints based only on media reports or on sub-judice matters. The Speaker can refer to the committee any complaint against an MP. The committee makes a prima facie enquiry before deciding to examine a complaint and after the evaluation of the complaint makes its recommendations.

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The committee report is presented to the Speaker who asks the House if the report should be taken up for consideration. There is also a provision for a half-an-hour discussion on the report.

How it differs from the Privileges Committee

Achary said the work of the Ethics Committee and the Privileges Committee often overlap. A corruption allegation against an MP can be sent to either body as it involves an accusation of serious breach of privilege and contempt of the House.

The mandate of the Committee of Privileges is to safeguard the “freedom, authority and dignity of Parliament”. These privileges are enjoyed by individual members as well as the House as a collective. Thus, while MPs can be examined for breach of privilege on corruption charges, a person who is not an MP can also be accused of breach of privilege for actions that attack the authority and dignity of the House. In the case of the Ethics Committee, however, only an MP can be examined for misconduct.

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