Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra was expelled as a Lok Sabha MP after she was found guilty by the ethics panel in the ‘cash-for-query’ case. The fiery leader blasted the Ethics Committee over its report, which said she accepted gifts and cash from a businessman to ask questions in Parliament to corner the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.
The case of Moitra has prompted discussions on whether the act of soliciting favours in return for parliamentary actions constitutes illegal gratification. Legal experts have emphasised the severity of this breach, suggesting that if an MP indeed performed parliamentary duties for remuneration, it warranted investigation by the Privileges Committee for contempt and a serious breach of privilege.
In this case, Moitra has, however, been decided by the Ethics Committee.
With Moitra being expelled, she now has the right to challenge the decision before a court of law. Any grounds for such a challenge would likely revolve around potential illegality, unconstitutionality or a denial of natural justice during the committee’s investigation.
LEGAL OPTIONS OF MAHUA MOITRA
Firstly, Moitra can file an appeal against the Ethics Committee’s decision. This could be done by approaching the Supreme Court or the High Court, pleading to overturn or provide an order against the decision. The plea would be based on the grounds of natural justice and principles of fair hearing.
Secondly, she could also challenge the jurisdiction and conduct of the Ethics Committee. She can argue that the committee overstepped its mandate, that the proceedings were irregular, or whether the proceedings were conducted with malice or prejudice.
Thirdly, Moitra can seek intervention. Through her party or independent avenues, she can approach senior Parliament or government officials, alleging bias, prejudice or any sort of malfeasance in the Ethics Committee’s proceedings.
Lastly, she can seek relief through the defamation suit already filed by her before the Delhi High Court. If Moitra can prove that the accusations against her were slanderous, fabricated, or damaging to her reputation, in her defamation case against several individuals, she can hope for a reversal of the Ethics Committee’s decision.
But one significant aspect complicating matters is the absence of explicit rules barring MPs from sharing their Parliament login credentials, as the practice of online question submission is relatively recent. However, the absence of specific rules does not diminish the gravity of potential breaches of parliamentary conduct.