The alacrity with which the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee went about recommending the expulsion of Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Mahua Moitra from the lower House is certainly not a sign of any fidelity to ethics, or fairness. The recommendation is a brazenly partisan attempt to silence a critic of the government. It is also a warning shot meant to intimidate MPs from doing their job of holding the executive accountable. Neither the process nor the conclusions of the committee are grounded in any decipherable principle. The committee, with the help of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology found that the MP’s credentials were used online from Dubai 47 times to access the Parliament portal. Parliamentary questions were submitted from abroad. As Opposition members in the committee have pointed out, the drafting and the submission of questions are routinely done by aides of MPs. And MPs raise questions in Parliament based on representations from various constituents. To assume without solid evidence that any question is in exchange of material favours and then to expel an elected MP, is an assault on parliamentary democracy itself. The committee is calling upon the government to investigate the allegation of ‘quid pro quo’ raised by one of its members against Ms. Moitra, after holding her guilty, turning the principle of natural justice on its head.
If MPs are barred from sharing their login credentials with others, the rule must equally apply to one and all. Now that the committee has taken this extreme step of calling for the expulsion of an elected member from the House, thereby depriving the voters of her constituency representation, it should also investigate how other MPs prepare and submit parliamentary questions. The selective investigation of one MP, based on insinuations and conjectures, clearly comes out as what it is — intimidation. It is also in stark contrast with the tardy response of the Lok Sabha Committee of Privileges to a serious complaint against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ramesh Bidhuri who used derogatory communal slurs against a fellow member in the Lok Sabha. That a member can abuse and threaten another member on the floor of the House is a matter of serious concern. That said, Ms. Moitra’s act of allowing a person who is not employed by her to execute official work on her behalf betrays a lack of discretion and judgement. This should act as a lesson for all those who seek to hold the government accountable: to keep themselves beyond reproach.