Lok Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament and politics is home to numerous theatrics pulled by the opposition and ruling party. One such incident stumbled the countrymen; The ‘Cash-for-Query’ incident involving Mahua Moitra, TMC MP from Krishnanagar, West Bengal and billionaire businessman, Darshan Hiranandani. Let’s understand the details of the case.
What is the ‘Cash-for-Query’ case that wreaked a havoc in the Lok Sabha?
Cash for Query means a certain MP receives materialistic things from someone outside of the parliament to paint a negative narrative against the ruling party. Basically, the MP then asks only the questions which benefits the latter.
In this case, the person from outside of the vicinity of the Parliament was businessman, Darshan Hiranandani and the MP was; Mahua Moitra. According to reports and BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, Moitra received cash and luxury gifts from Hiranandani to ask a certain questions.
Those questions tarnished Gautam Adani’s (direct competitor of Hiranandani in Bengal) and the ruling government’s image. Dubey was swift to react to the indirect case of bribe and then action was demanded by the BJP.
This is not something unprecedented as in 2005, Delhi court had held 11 MPs in the similar crime. The government then was ran by Manmohan Singh led UPA party. The incident was infamously known as the ‘Dr. Chattrapal Singh row’.
Out of the 11 MPs accused in the case, six were from the BJP, three from BSP, and one each from the RJD and Congress. They were Y G Mahajan (BJP), Chhatarpal Singh Lodha (BJP), Anna Saheb M K Patil (BJP), Manoj Kumar (RJD), Chandra Pratap Singh (BJP), Ram Sewak Singh (Congress), Narender Kumar Kushwaha (BSP), Pradeep Gandhi (BJP), Suresh Chandel (BJP), Lal Chandra Kol (BSP) and Raja Rampal (BSP). The Lok Sabha expelled 10 members, while Lodha, who was the sole Rajya Sabha member, was also expelled.
Dr. Chattrapal Singh Lodha.
On December 24, 2005, the Parliament voted to expel the 11 MPs in a historic vote. Pranab Mukherjee , the leader of the house at the time, introduced a resolution asking for expulsion of the members while then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did the same in Rajya Sabha.
Leader of opposition then and a senior leader of BJP, LK Advani accepted the wrong-doing of his party members and accepted that it was ‘stupidity’. However he also claimed that punishment of expulsion was way too ‘harsh’.
What are the other grounds on which Lok Sabha can expel an MP?
According to the Rules of Conduct and Parliamentary Etiquette of the Lok Sabha, “The House has the right to punish its members for their misconduct whether in the House or outside it. In cases of misconduct or contempt committed by its members, the House can impose a punishment in the form of admonition, reprimand, withdrawal from the House, suspension from the service of the House, imprisonment and expulsion from the House.”
Mild offences are punished by admonition or reprimand (reprimand being the more serious of the two). Withdrawal from the House is demanded in the case of gross misconduct. ‘Persistent and wilful obstructions’ lead the Chairman to name and subsequently move a motion for suspension of the member. A member can be suspended, at the maximum, for the remainder of the session only.
Interior of the Lok Sabha in the New Parliament Building.
In an extreme case of misconduct, the House may expel a member from the House. According to a comment in the above rule book, “The purpose of expulsion is not so much disciplinary as remedial, not so much to punish members as to rid the House of persons who are unfit for membership.”
What does the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) 1951 says about the disqualification of MPs?
Disqualification on ground of corrupt practices :
The case of every person found guilty of a corrupt practice by an order under section 99 shall be submitted, [as soon as may be within a period of three months from the date such order takes effect], by such authority as the Central Government may specify in this behalf, to the President for determination of the question as to whether such person shall be disqualified and if so, for what period:
(1)Provided that the period for which any person may be disqualified under this sub-section shall in no case exceed six years from the date on which the order made in relation to him under section 99 takes effect.
(2) Any person who stands disqualified under section 8A of this Act as it stood immediately before the commencement of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975 (40 of 1975), may, if the period of such disqualification has not expired, submit a petition to the President for the removal of such disqualification for the unexpired portion of the said period.
(3) Before giving his decision on any question mentioned in sub-section (1) or on any petition
submitted under sub-section (2), the President shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission on such question or petition and shall act according to such opinion.]
Disqualification for dismissal for corruption or disloyalty :
A person who having held an office under the Government of India or under the Government of any State has been dismissed for corruption or for disloyalty to the State shall be disqualified for a period of five years from the date of such dismissal.
(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), a certificate issued by the Election Commission to the effect that a person having held office under the Government of India or under the Government of a State, has or has not been dismissed for corruption or for disloyalty to the State shall be conclusive proof of that fact:
Provided that no certificate to the effect that a person has been dismissed for corruption or for disloyalty to the State shall be issued unless an opportunity of being heard has been given to the said person.
In the Moitra case, an Ethics committee was appointed; more about the Ethics committee
Rajya Sabha, the Second Chamber of Indian Parliament also was seized of the matter for quite some time. The Business Advisory Committee of Rajya Sabha had decided in 1996, that this matter should be considered by Leaders of parties and groups in the House.
At the initiative of the former Prime Minister of India, Shri I.K. Gujral, who then was the External Affairs Minister, a meeting was held in 1996, with the leaders of parties and groups in Rajya Sabha to discuss the issue. Thereafter, the matter was placed before the General Purposes Committee of Rajya Sabha in 1997.
The Committee after considering the matter carefully, decided to have an internal mechanism of the House itself which would work as a self-regulatory body for the members of Rajya Sabha. The
Committee authorised the Chairman, Rajya Sabha to constitute an Ethics Committee with a mandate to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of its members.
Previously only applied to Rajya Sabha, now the Ethics committee can foresee any cases which it is brought on to pertaining breach of moral and ethical conduct of the members; be it Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.