Mahua’s Tryst with Ethics

3 Min
Mahua’s Tryst with Ethics

By Atul Cowshish

It took only about a fortnight for the Ethics Committee to release a 500-pgae report that recommended expulsion of Trinmool Congress MP, Mahua Moitra, from the Lok Sabha after finding her guilty of ‘unethical conduct, breach of her privilege as Member of Parliament and contempt of House’.

But not everyone seemed to be impressed by the performance of the parliament’s ethics committee or the speed with which the matter was disposed of.   

It is said that the ethics committee has before it several hundred cases pending for years but has not found time to dispose them of.  

It was said that the conclusions of the ethics committee were drawn ex-parte, basing almost the entire narrative on the complaint of the complainant, Nishikant Dubey, a BJP MP. Mahua Moitra was called to present her version before the committee but she alleged that she was subjected to ‘unethical’ questioning designed to humiliate her and deprive her of her dignity as a woman. She stormed out of the meeting along with the opposition members of the committee who shared her anger.

The committee did not deem it fit to summon a key person who figures in the complaint against Mahua Moitra – Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandani whose Mumbai-based father is one of India’s biggest real estate developers. Interestingly, Darshan Hiranandani reportedly denied that he had anything to do with Mohua Moitra’s questions on Adani. 

The Hiranandanis were described in media reports as competitors of Adani, though it was never mentioned in which area their business interests overlapped.  

It is a wild guess, but maybe the Hirananadanis were eying the multi-billion rupee project to develop a residential complex in Mumbai’s biggest ‘slum’ area of Dharavi. The project has been awarded to Adani but it is said that no rivals were able to join the bid. The story may be entirely untrue, but then the point to ponder is did Mahua Moitra, accused of accepting ‘bribe’ from Hiranandani for asking motivated questions on Adani, ever put any question on real estate development in Mumbai and Adani developing Dharavi?

Mahua Moitra, a former banker who has worked in the US and the UK who was once married to a Danish national, admitted that she had shared her parliamentary log-in detail with Darshan Hiranandani to facilitate quick listing of questions. This was perhaps wrong in the eyes of the law, but it was certainly not something that deserved severe punishment for her.

Nearly every Member of Parliament shares the log-in details with their staff members and this widely known fact was never considered a breach of any code. How it endangers national security is beyond belief because merely typing the log-in code does not give access to parliament.

The reason for MPs sharing the log-in details is simple: most honourable MPs are not very tech-savvy and invariably depend on their staff or someone else of their choice for handling matters that require the use of their log-in detail and framing questions.

To say that Mahua Moitra asked questions in exchange of ‘expensive’ gifts she received sounds ridiculous. MPs almost always have to receive information from someone before they put a query in the House. There have been cases when MPs were found to be taking money for asking questions and they were expelled from parliament after the allegation against them  were found to be true. But in Mahua Moitra’s case, no proof has been forthcoming of her accepting ‘bribes’ for asking questions.

The parliamentary committee wants an agency like the CBI to probe the allegation of bribery against Mohua Moitra. Going by the present trend, the central agency will somehow hold her guilty and she will then be prosecuted and most probably sent to jail.

That will be a remarkable coincidence since one by one opposition politicians very vocal in questioning the business ‘ethics’ of Gautam Adani are being sent to jail. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is lucky that he got relief—temporary—from the supreme court and got out of jail and also saw his Lok Sabha membership restored.

A case of defamation against him filed in Gujarat was reopened after a gap of more than a year and the lower court in the state completed proceedings at a breakneck pace to send him to maximum jail sentence—two years. That was sufficient to take away his Lok Sabha membership.

Another persistent questioner of Adani, AAP leader Sanjay Singh arrested in a case to which his links is not established is cooling his heels in jail with little prospect of early release. Though some other opposition leaders have also been asking questions on Adani, the trio of Rahul Gandhi, Sanjay Singh and Mahua Moitra was perhaps the most vocal. Eagerly awaited is the next round of arrests, probably beginning with Arvind Kejriwal of AAP!   (SAT)