The Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha has recommended the expulsion of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra from the 17th Lok Sabha following cash-for-query allegations levelled against her by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey.
The committee, after an inquiry, found Moitra guilty of "unethical conduct" and "serious misdemeanours." Additionally, it has called for an "intense, legal, institutional inquiry" by the government due to Moitra's alleged "highly objectionable, unethical, heinous, and criminal conduct."
The committee's decision was reached through a voting process, with six MPs supporting the recommendation, including five from the ruling NDA, and Preneet Kaur of the Congress. Four Opposition MPs – Danish Ali from BSP, V Vaithilingam from Congress, P R Natarajan from CPM, and Giridhari Yadav from JD(U) – submitted dissent notes, expressing their disagreement with the decision.
Moitra stands accused of sharing her Parliament login and password with businessman Darshan Hiranandani, enabling him to "post questions" directly "on her behalf when required." While Moitra confirmed providing her login details as reported by The Indian Express, she vehemently denied accepting any cash from Hiranandani, contrary to lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai's complaint to the CBI.
Committee chairman Vinod Sonkar confirmed the adoption of the report and stated, "We will send a detailed report along with the recommendations to the Lok Sabha Speaker. Whatever action is to be taken now will be taken by the Speaker."
According to the committee's report, the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology (MEITY) revealed that Moitra's member portal had been "operated 47 times" from the UAE between July 2019 and April 2013. The Home Ministry expressed concerns about Moitra's actions potentially leading to the "leakage of sensitive or classified information."
“Transfer of login credentials to unauthorised elements could provide an opportunity to such elements to access the system leading to several potential hazards. First, given the threats that the country is facing from State and non-State cyber actors, such leakage of credentials could render the system vulnerable to serious cyber-attacks and potentially disable the system entirely, thereby crippling the functioning of the Parliament of India. Second, such elements could plant material into the system that could impact National Security by creating false documents or fake narratives, etc,” the report said.
As regards Moitra “taking cash” from Hiranandani as a “sequel to quid pro quo’, the committee report said it does not have the technical wherewithal and expertise to criminally investigate and unearth the money trial and recommended that it be investigated by the government “in a legal, institutional and time-bound manner.”
“With the ethics committee recommending strict action against the TMC MP, there will be investigation against the criminal conduct and the economic offences. The government will see how it should be investigated and which agency,” said a source in the ruling party.
The Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha has also delved into Moitra’s travel details. The panel has received Moitra's travel records since February 2019, indicating four trips to the UAE during this period – in November 2021, April and November 2022, and August 2023.
Additionally, the Ministry of Information Technology provided specific information, including the place, venue, date, time, and IP address from which Moitra's parliamentary login credentials were accessed.
The Ministry of External Affairs submitted a sworn affidavit signed by businessman Darshan Hiranandani, Moitra's alleged associate, in the presence of the Vice Consul at the Consulate General of India in Dubai.
During the proceedings, lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai, who had filed the initial complaint, expressed his concerns regarding national security and corruption. Dehadrai asserted a conspiracy between Moitra and Hiranandani, claiming that Hiranandani provided questions for Moitra to post, paying her in return.
Dehadrai stressed that Moitra's alleged objective to link the Adani Group with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. He suggested investigating Hiranandani to gather specific information about the dates and times when Moitra shared information with him. Although when questioned about evidence of cash transfers, Dehadrai referred to his affidavit without providing further details.
Moitra, however, accused committee chairman Vinod Sonkar of inappropriate questioning and walked out of the panel meeting on November 2. She subsequently released a letter addressed to Speaker Om Birla, alleging that Sonkar had subjected her to humiliating inquiries. Sonkar defended his line of questioning, stating that it pertained to the charges made against Moitra and the allegations from the complainant, Hiranandani.
This development highlights the intensity of the inquiry, revealing a complex web of accusations involving Moitra, Hiranandani, and questions about national security and corruption. The Ethics Committee continues its efforts to unearth the truth, underscoring the significance of upholding parliamentary ethics and integrity. The outcome of this investigation may have far-reaching implications, shaping the course of parliamentary proceedings and ethical standards in public service.