After Mahua expulsion
- December 9, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
After Mahua expulsion
Section: Parliament and legislation
Context: Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra was Friday expelled from the Lok Sabha
More about the news:
- The Lok Sabha expelled Trinamool Congress member Mahua Moitra over the “cash-for-query” allegation through a voice vote amid chaos.
- Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister had moved the motion to expel Ms. Moitra as per the recommendation of the Ethics Committee report.
- The report found her guilty of sharing her credentials with others, accepting gifts for favors from a businessman.
Can she go to the Supreme Court:
- The expelled individual has the option to challenge the expulsion in the Supreme Court.
- While Article 122 of the Constitution typically grants immunity to parliamentary proceedings from court challenges based on procedural irregularities, the Supreme Court, in the 2007 Raja Ram Pal case, clarified that these restrictions are specifically for procedural irregularities.
- In certain cases, judicial review may be deemed necessary, despite the general immunity outlined in Article 122.
What can be the grounds for a challenge
- Former Lok Sabha secretary general P. D. T. Achary explains that while a House has the authority to expel a Member for breaching privilege, the court can assess whether that specific privilege was in effect at the time.
- He notes the distinct roles of the Privileges Committee and Ethics Committee, emphasizing that they investigate misconduct and assess if a member has compromised the House’s dignity.
- While investigative procedures lack specific rules, Achary suggests that fair methods, such as allowing the accused to depose, cross-examine individuals, and present relevant evidence, should be followed to uncover the truth.
- In the case of lawmaker Moitra, who claims denial of natural justice, she alleges not being permitted to cross-examine individuals involved in the bribery accusations against her.
What had been Supreme Court’s stand on the issue in the past:
- The Supreme Court has presented contrasting perspectives on analogous cases in the past, illustrating the intricacies of parliamentary expulsions.
- The 2007 Raja Ram Pal case emphasized Parliament’s authority to expel members, contingent upon justiciability.
- Nevertheless, discrepancies arose among judges regarding the interpretation of Article 101, addressing seat vacation in Parliament. The minority judgment expressed reservations about the comprehensive nature of Article 101, pointing out its omission of expulsion as a basis for vacancy.
- In a subsequent case, Amarinder Singh vs Special Committee, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the Supreme Court declared the expulsion of former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as unconstitutional.
- The ruling highlighted concerns about potential misuse of legislative privileges to target political adversaries or dissenters, particularly in relation to their past legislative actions.
- The Supreme Court’s position in this instance raises apprehensions regarding vague grounds for expulsion, such as conduct unbecoming of a member or lowering the dignity of the House, which could potentially lead to the selective application of legislative privileges against political opponents.
What is Article 105:
- Article 105 of the Constitution addresses the powers and privileges of Parliament and its members and committees.
- Article 105(3) specifies that these powers, privileges, and immunities are to be defined by Parliament through law.
- Until such definition, they are to be those in effect before the Constitution’s Forty-fourth Amendment Act, 1978.
- The court emphasized that Article 105(3) does not grant absolute immunity to parliamentary proceedings, allowing for judicial scrutiny.
- However, the court clarified that it won’t question the truth or correctness of the material relied upon by the legislature, nor will it assess the adequacy of the material or substitute its opinion for that of the legislature.
- Certain Constitutional provisions, such as Article 122 or 212, impose restrictions on this judicial scrutiny.
Some facts about Ethics Committee:
- Each of the two Houses of Parliament has an ethics committee. They deal with the members’
- Besides overseeing the moral and ethical conduct of members, ethics committee also prepares a Code of Conduct for members, which are amended from time to time.
- The ethics committee in Lok Sabha has 15 members while in Rajya Sabha has 10 members.
- The members of the Ethics Committee are appointed by the Speaker for a period of one year.
What is the history of Ethics Committees:
- A Presiding Officers’ Conference held in Delhi in 1996 first mooted the idea of ethics panels for the two Houses.
- Then Vice President K R Narayanan constituted the Ethics Committee of the Upper House on March 4, 1997, and it was inaugurated that 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.
- In the case of Lok Sabha, a study group of the House Committee of Privileges, after visiting Australia, the UK, and the US in 1997 to look into practices pertaining to the conduct and ethics of legislators, recommended the constitution of an Ethics Committee, but it could not be taken up by Lok Sabha.
- The Committee of Privileges finally recommended the constitution of an Ethics Committee during the 13th Lok Sabha.
- The late Speaker, G M C Balayogi, constituted an ad hoc Ethics Committee in 2000, which became a permanent part of the House only in 2015.
What is the Procedure for complaints:
- Any individual has the right to file a complaint against a Member of Parliament (MP) by going through another Lok Sabha MP. This process requires providing evidence of the alleged misconduct and submitting an affidavit affirming that the complaint is not “false, frivolous, or vexatious.“
- If the MP in question files the complaint, there is no need for an affidavit.
- The Speaker has the authority to forward any complaint against an MP to the Ethics Committee.
- Notably, the committee does not entertain complaints solely based on media reports or matters under judicial consideration.
- Before deciding to investigate a complaint, the committee conducts a prima facie inquiry and subsequently issues recommendations based on its evaluation.
- The committee then presents its report to the Speaker, who seeks the House’s opinion on whether to consider the report.
- Additionally, there is provision for a half-hour discussion on the report.