What Ethics Panel Report Says

Mahua Moitra is a Trinamool Congress leader (File). Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra accepted gifts, like “luxury items” and the

What Ethics Panel Report Says

Mahua Moitra is a Trinamool Congress leader (File).

Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra accepted gifts, like “luxury items” and the use of a car, and such “serious misdemeanours… call for severe punishment”, the Ethics Committee said Friday in its report into allegations Ms Moitra took bribes, including Rs 2 crore in cash, from businessman Darshan Hiranandani, to ask questions critical of the Narendra Modi government in Parliament.

The 500-page report quoted from Mr Hiranandani’s statement, in which he said, “… demands that were made, and favours that were asked, included gifting her expensive luxury items, providing support on renovation of her officially allotted bungalow in Delhi, travel expenses, holidays…”

The report noted that “allegations of accepting illegal gratification (are) clearly established and are undeniable”. It declares “taking gifts from (a) businessman to whom she handed over log-in (details) amounts to a quid pro quo… (which is) unbecoming of an MP and is unethical conduct”.

The Ethics Committee, therefore, said it “recommend(s) that Smt Mahua Moitra, MP, may be expelled from the membership of the Seventeenth Lok Sabha”. It also called for “a legal institutional inquiry by the Government… in view of unethical, heinous, and criminal conduct of Smt Moitra…”

READ | Government To Bring Motion In Parliament To Expel Mahua Moitra: Sources

Further action against Ms Moitra has been referred to investigative agencies with the technical expertise to probe the “money trail”, with the committee recommending a “time-bound” inquiry.

On the point that Ms Moitra accepted cash as part of the bribes, the Ethics Committee said, “… (we) wish to candidly point out that (we) do not have the technical wherewithal and expertise to criminally investigate and unearth the ‘money trail’, which is the task of the central government…”

Ms Moitra and her supporters have refuted graft charges against her by pointing out no cash has been, so far, recovered in this matter. There is, though, a CBI inquiry that is now underway.

READ | CBI Begins Probe In Cash-For-Query Case Against Mahua Moitra

The report, tabled in the Lok Sabha this afternoon triggered a row between the ruling BJP and the opposition, which has demanded a detailed discussion on this issue and a division of votes to force the government’s hand. The Lok Sabha was adjourned till 2 pm, when the motion to expel Ms Moitra is expected to be tabled. If passed, the motion will pass given the BJP’s overwhelming majority.

The ruling party on Thursday issued a three-line whip to all its MPs.

READ | Ethics Panel Approves Mahua Moitra’s Expulsion In 6:4 Verdict

Earlier today, a confident, and typically fierce Ms Moitra strode into Parliament, pausing only to tell reporters, “Maa Durga aa gayi hai, ab dekhenge…Jab naash manuj par chhata hai, pehle vivek mar jaata hai (Maa Durga has come! Now we will see… when destruction comes, conscience dies first).”

“They have started… and now you will watch ‘Mahabharat ka rann (battlefield)’.”

Mahua Moitra, 49, has flatly denied allegations she took bribes.

She was also accused of surrendering her parliamentary log-in credentials to Mr Hiranandani. She later admitted she did this but argued it was common practice among MPs.

Trinamool boss and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of having “planned” the expulsion of Ms Moitra – who is one of the ruling party’s fiercest and most vocal critics. “… but this will help her before the election,” Ms Banerjee said. The 2024 Lok Sabha election is just months away.

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