The Lok Sabha's ethics committee, the parliamentary watchdog on moral and ethical conduct, has recommended the expulsion of Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra. The allegations against Moitra are severe, including unethical behavior and breach of parliamentary privileges, purportedly in exchange for financial benefits from a businessperson. The MP is accused of targeting a particular business house through her parliamentary questions and sharing her parliamentary login credentials with the businessman.
Parliamentary Privileges and Ethics Committee
Parliamentary privileges, a concept with roots in medieval Britain, were designed as a bulwark against monarchic overreach. They protect the House of Commons and its members, including the power to punish members for breaches. In India, the ethics committee, established in 2000, oversees the moral and ethical conduct of MPs. It examines complaints of unethical behavior, which are not explicitly defined, carries out preliminary inquiries, and reports its findings to the Speaker for the House's consideration.
Constitutional Ambiguities and Supreme Court Interpretations
India's Constitution outlines grounds for a parliamentary seat vacation but does not explicitly mention expulsion. This absence has led to varying Supreme Court interpretations, creating a constitutional grey area. The Lok Sabha's ethics committee's suggestion to expel Moitra raises questions about the proportionality of the punishment and the potential lack of representation for constituents until an election or by-election fills the gap.
Striking a Balance: House Dignity and Democratic Representation
The case underlines the delicate balance between maintaining the dignity and privileges of the House and ensuring democratic representation. To address this, the need for fast-track courts for time-bound trials in such cases is suggested. If convicted, MPs would face disqualification under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, ensuring that justice is served while preventing protracted periods without representation. The views expressed in this article belong to the writer, a former IAS officer and author, who advocates for greater clarity and expedited legal processes in Parliament.