Following her expulsion as a Lok Sabha MP in the ‘cash-for-query’ case, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra has several legal options to challenge the ruling. The 49-year-old leader can take these into consideration.
Leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Mahua Moitra, was expelled from the Lok Sabha after the ethics panel found her guilty in the “cash-for-query” case. The ferocious leader attacked the Ethics Committee for its report, which claimed she took cash and gifts from a businessman in exchange for her asking pointed questions in Parliament to put pressure on the BJP government led by Narendra Modi.
Discussions about whether asking for favors in exchange for parliamentary actions is illegal gratification have been sparked by the Moitra case. Legal experts have highlighted the seriousness of this violation, arguing that the Privileges Committee ought to look into whether an MP was in fact compensated for performing parliamentary duties, as this would constitute a serious breach of privilege and warrant contempt.
But in this instance, the Ethics Committee has made the decision to remove Moitra.
The lack of clear regulations prohibiting Members of Parliament from disclosing their login credentials is a noteworthy factor that exacerbates the situation, given that online question submission is a relatively new practice. Nonetheless, the seriousness of possible infractions of parliamentary conduct is not lessened by the lack of explicit regulations.
Now that Moitra has been expelled, she is entitled to contest the ruling in court. Potential illegality, unconstitutionality, or a denial of natural justice during the committee’s investigation would probably be the basis for such a challenge.
WHAT DECISIONS HAS THE SUPREME COURT MADE IN THE PAST?
Because parliamentary expulsions are so complicated, the Supreme Court has previously expressed divergent views in cases that were similar to this one. One notable example of Parliament’s power to remove its members subject to justiciability was the Raja Ram Pal case from 2007. Nonetheless, the judges disagreed on how to interpret Article 101, which deals with the vacation of seats in Parliament.
The minority expressed concerns about the exhaustive nature of Article 101 and its omission of expulsion as a reason for vacancy, while the majority contended that expulsion was within Parliament’s jurisdiction.
Amarinder Singh, the former chief minister of Punjab, was expelled; this was declared unconstitutional by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a later case, Amarinder Singh v. Special Committee, Punjab Vidhan Sabha. The decision highlighted how legislative privileges could be abused to target political rivals or dissidents, particularly when it comes to their past legislative actions.
The current situation involving Moitra’s potential expulsion from the Lok Sabha illustrates how this power could be used against political rivals even in the absence of a regime shift. Given the seriousness of the situation, the Ethics Committee has called for a comprehensive investigation to determine whether any financial impropriety has occurred.
Significantly, the Amarinder Singh case raises questions about imprecise grounds for removal, like behavior unbecoming of a member or demeaning the House. This is because of the Supreme Court’s position on the matter. Such expansive standards may allow for the selective use of legislative privileges against opponents of the political class.
MAHUA MOITRA’S LEGAL OPTIONS
First, Moitra has the option to appeal the Ethics Committee’s ruling. This could be accomplished by requesting an order against the decision or an appeal to the Supreme Court or the High Court. Natural justice and fair hearing principles would be the foundation of the plea.
Second, she could contest the Ethics Committee’s authority and actions. She can contend that the committee went beyond its authority, that the proceedings were improper, or that there was bias or malice involved.
Thirdly, Moitra is able to ask for help. She can go to senior Parliament or government officials through her party or other independent channels, accusing them of bias, prejudice, or any kind of misconduct during the Ethics Committee’s deliberations.
Lastly, she has already filed a defamation lawsuit before the Delhi High Court, through which she may seek relief. Moitra may be able to reverse the Ethics Committee’s ruling in her defamation case against multiple parties if she can demonstrate that the charges leveled against her were false, slanderous, or detrimental to her reputation.