[Cash for Query Row] Lok Sabha Ethics Panel recommends disqualification of Mahua Moitra

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BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has claimed that out of the 61 questions Moitra had posed in the Lok Sabha up to that point, 50 were centered on the Adani Group. Moitra has frequently accused this business conglomerate of malpractices, especially after it was the subject of a critical report by the short-seller Hindenburg Research

In the ongoing investigation into allegations of cash-for-query, on November 9, the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, headed by BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar, adopted a report on Thursday recommending the expulsion of Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra from the Lok Sabha.

The report was adopted by a 6-4 vote. The Congress MP Praneet Kaur voted in favor of the report, while the other four opposition MPs submitted dissent notes.

Moitra, as per the report has been indicted for “unethical conduct” and “contempt of the House” for sharing her Lok Sabha log-in credentials with unauthorized personnel. The panel called this a “serious misdemeanor” and recommended “severe punishment”. “In view of highly objectionable, unethical, heinous, and criminal conduct,” the committee has recommended “intense, legal, and institutional inquiry by the Government of India (GOI) in a time-bound manner.”

Today, the committee was considering a report made by a 15-member panel that recommended the expulsion of the TMC leader. 

The panel also proposed to recommend that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Danish Ali, who is a member of the ethics committee, be admonished for allegedly twisting and molding the intent of the chairman’s questions to Moitra questions and fomenting public sentiments against the panel.

Former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, P D T Achary, said that the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee report will now be sent to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. "During the next session of Parliament, the committee chairman will table the report in the House and thereafter there will be a debate on it, followed by a vote on a government motion for the member's expulsion", Achary said. 

Moitra had appeared before the ethics panel on November 2, after the committee had set the date for her appearance with no possibility of further extension.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has accused Moitra of accepting money and gifts from businessman Darshan Hiranandani in exchange for posing questions in Parliament. The accusations were brought to the committee's attention through an official complaint filed by Dubey with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, supported by purported 'evidence' provided by Moitra's estranged friend, Jai Anant Dehadrai.

On October 27, both Nishikant Dubey and Jai Anant Dehadrai appeared before the panel to provide their statements and testimonies.

In response to the committee's summons, Moitra conveyed her unavailability for the October 31, 2023, meeting, citing prior commitments and engagements. In a written response, she explained, "I represent the state of West Bengal, where Durga Puja stands as the most significant festival. I am already committed to participating in numerous pre-scheduled Vijaya Dashami Sammelans and meetings, both government and political, in my constituency from October 30 to November 4, 2023. Consequently, I will be unable to be present in Delhi on October 31, 2023."

Meanwhile, TMC MP Mahua Moitra has filed a defamation suit before the Delhi High Court seeking directions to restrain BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, and several social media platforms and media houses from posting, circulating, or publishing any fake and defamatory content against her. Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan withdrew to appear for Moitra after Dehadrai informed the court that he was contacted by him to withdraw the complaint against the TMC MP.

In her plea, Moitra has sought an order directing BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and Jai Anant Dehadrai to publish a retraction and an apology to the plaintiff in three English newspapers, three Hindi newspapers, and three Bengali newspapers for the false and defamatory statements and allegations” made by them against her.

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