By Aditya Mishra, BA/BSc Social Science, Arts and Humanities with Foundation Year
Photo Caption: Mahua Moitra was a member of Parliament from Krishnanagar – she contested the decision of her suspension to the Supreme Court. [Photo Credit: Zee News]
On December 11th, 2023, All India Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra was suspended after charges of Cash For Query were placed on her by BJP lawmaker Nishikant Dubey and advocate Jai Dehadrai.
This is not a defence of Mahua Moitra. The basic principle of law says that the accused should be punished only if his crime has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. It also says that the accused should be punished only after completing the established procedures of justice. Based on these principles, we are trying to explain the proceeding that led to the TMC lawmaker’s suspension.
Why So Urgent?
On December 11th, 2023 the case regarding Mahua Moitra’s alleged misconduct was presented in front of the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha. The final decision saw Mahua Moitra suspended from her duties as a Member of Parliament from Krishnanagar. However, the decision to suspend Mahua was passed inside 90 minutes. Many of the non-BJP members have complained that they didn’t get sufficient time to read the report and that the decision was made and passed off in a hurry.
As per the basics of the law, even the accused has the right to present their defence and contest the decision. However, in Mahua’s case, she wasn’t given the chance to present her defence, like many others who were suspended before her. On top of that, the opposition’s microphone were deliberately turned off whenever they passed judgment on Mr Adani and the Prime Minister. The “turning off the mic” has been going on for a very long time during BJP’s rule but more prominently since 2019.
Was it Even Democratic?
The voting to suspend Mahua Moitra was done by a voice vote. Its problem being that it is done by the party whip. Doing a voice vote where the party whip system works can be seen as tribal justice, not democratic justice.
For context, a whip is a metaphor in democratic terms when a party’s leadership wants a particular decision to go through. The entire party, be it senior colleagues or junior members, then has to vote in favour of or against that particular decision or law. The system of a voice vote is mainly seen as a show of strength and is perceived to be more like herd mentality and less like ideological agreement.
The problem of the whip can be best explained by Manish Tewari, a lawmaker from Anandpur Sahib, who said, “Today this house is sitting as judge and jury. In an impeachment proceeding or when you consider the ethics report of the Ethics Committee. Can a party direct its members to vote in a particular way? Can a whip even be issued, because this is like directing a judge to decide a matter in a particular manner. This is a complete travesty of justice.”
Key Witness? Evidence Credibility? Ethics?
The allegations of Dubey and Dehadrai said that Mahua received bribes from Darshan Hiranandani in exchange for questioning his rival Gautam Adani. However, Hiranandani’s affidavit doesn’t mention bribes, cash or gifts. Moitra highlighted this when she protested her suspension outside the Parliament. She said, “The two testimonies used to hang me are opposites to each other. The complainant (BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai) says I accepted cash and considerations from a businessman to ask questions in furtherance of his commercial interests. But the businessman’s suo moto affidavit says I pressured him into uploading questions to further my agenda. The Ethics Committee, without getting to the root of this, has decided to hang me.” Moitra’s statement gained more credibility because the Ethics Committee didn’t even find it necessary to call Darshan Hiranandani for questioning on his statements written in the affidavit.
What does the Law Say?
Many political experts believe that the decision to suspend Mahua Moitra’s duties was not for the Ethics Committee to make; it could declare her guilty, but couldn’t punish her for it. As far as legal terms are concerned, Rule 316(d) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business says, “the recommendations of the Committee shall be presented in the form of a report… The ethics committee can recommend whether a person is guilty or innocent but can’t recommend punishment. That power lies with this House. The ethics committee, at best, can make a recommendation on whether a person is guilty or innocent.”
If this is believed to be true, then the whole procedure that caused Mahua to be stripped of her powers as a Member of Parliament is illegal. It also sends the message that if anyone messes with Narendra Modi’s friend Gautam Adani, they’ll suffer the same fate and will be punished in a similarly undemocratic manner. It started with Rahul Gandhi; Mahua Moitra is the latest victim.
“I am 49 years old. I will fight you for the next 30 years, inside and outside Parliament, in the gutter and on the street… This is the beginning of your end. We will come back and see the end of you.”
Mahua’s Rage and Pending Justice
Since the former lawmaker wasn’t given a chance to give her views and present her defence, she chose the outside of the Parliament to vent her frustration. “I am 49 years old. I will fight you for the next 30 years, inside and outside Parliament, in the gutter and on the street… This is the beginning of your end. We will come back and see the end of you.” Now that we know that the BJP believes in the philosophy of instant justice, maybe they should give suspensions to some of their MPs.
Photo Caption: This is Ramesh Bhiduri, he called Bahujan Samaj Party lawmaker Kunwar Danish Ali ‘Bhadwa’, ‘Katwa’, ‘Mullah Uggravadi’, and ‘Atankvadi’ inside the Parliament. He continues to be a lawmaker. [Photo Credit: Mathrubhumi English]
Photo Caption: Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accused by women wrestlers of sexual misconduct continues to be a member of Parliament. He was also the Chief of the Wrestling Federation of India until August 2023. [Photo Credit: Economic Times]
Photo Caption: Ajay Kumar Mishra’s son Ashish Kumar Mishra (right) drove into protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. Ashish is free on bail, his father is still a lawmaker. [Photo Credit: Tribune India]
Photo Caption: Pragya Singh Thakur is a current MP known for her extremely Islamaphobic views. She claims that she was one of the many who had demolished the Babri Masjid despite the Supreme Court’s orders not to destroy it. She is out on bail for her role in the Malegaon Blasts of 2008. [Photo Credit: Mint]
Given that these individuals remain unpunished, without having their powers stripped, asking the Modi Government for their suspension would be counted in the realm of stupidity; but as a journalist, questions are bound to arise.