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Did Lok Sabha have power to expel Mahua Moitra, how’s it different from Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification?

As Joshi’s motion was adopted by a voice vote, Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee claimed that the House does not have the power to remove her as a member. Even Moitra said, “The Ethics Committee has no power to expel (her)…You have assumed the powers of the quasi-judicial authority and imposed a penalty on me that you have no power to do.”

Follow Mahua Moitra cash-for-query case LIVE updates here

So, can Lok Sabha expel an MP?

First, Mahua Moitra was not expelled by the Ethics Committee. Prahlad Joshi had moved a motion, asking the House to “agree on the recommendation (that called for Mahua’s expulsion) contained in the first report of the committee on Ethics on complaint dated 15 October 2023”.

He also sought the expulsion of Mahua as a member of the Lok Sabha after the Lok Sabha took notice of the first report of the committee.

Mahua Moitra was expelled after the Lok Sabha voice voted in favour of her expulsion.

What’s the process of expulsion in Mahua’s case?

The ‘cash-for-query’ case against Mahua Moitra was handed over to the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee.

The Committee conducted the enquiry into the matter, as per the rules. During the investigation, the Ethics Committee panel questioned Moitra and other parties in the case. The Committee held Moitra guilty and recommended her expulsion from the Lok Sabha.

The recommendations of the Committee were presented in the form of a report, as the rules suggest. “The report of the Committee may also state the procedure to be followed by the House in giving effect to the recommendations made by the Committee,” the Lok Sabha says in a document.

What’s the process ahead?

The report by the Ethics Committee is presented to the Speaker who may direct that the report be laid on the table of the House.

After the report has been presented, the Chairperson or any member of the Committee or any other member may move that the report be taken into consideration whereupon the Speaker may put the question to the House.

In this case, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion to expel the TMC leader for “unethical conduct”.

“Before putting the question to the House, the Speaker may permit a debate on the motion, not exceeding half-an-hour in duration” — which was the case on Friday.

ALSO READ: From ‘personal life’ to ‘Dubai stay’: Mahua Moitra reveals ‘filthy’ questions that made her leave ethics panel probe

While half an hour time was given for the discussion on the motion, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, TMC leaders and other opposition leaders sought more time to analyse the report. However, the suggestion was turned down.

After the motion made under sub-rule (1) is agreed to, any member may move that “the House agrees, or disagrees or agrees with amendments, with the recommendations contained in the report,” the Lok Sabha in its document says.

If the panel recommends any punitive action, a motion is brought to the House based on the proposal and it is voted upon.

ALSO READ: TMC slams BJP MP’s ‘thumka’ comment on Mamata Banerjee; Mahua Moitra says, ‘That is why you’ll never win Bengal’

Now, as the majority of the Lok Sabha members voted in favour of Mahua Moitra’s expulsion, she was expelled as an MP on Friday before the adjourning of the Lower House for the day.

This shows that the Lok Sabha worked according to the rules and followed its due course to expel Mahua Moitra from the Lower House. 

How is Mahua’s expulsion different from Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification?

Rahul Gandhi was “disqualified” as the Lok Sabha MP following his conviction in a defamation case. However, Moitra’s case is not about the disqualification but removal.

In Moitra’s matter, there is no offence committed under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is why the matter was referred to the Ethics Committee, explained Supreme Court lawyer Nipun Saxena.

Besides, Moitra was expelled following a voice vote in the House, and Rahul Gandhi was disqualified after the Lok Sabha Secretariat issued a notice to him, informing the same.

What do the rules on MP’s suspension say?

Provision for suspension of members is given in Rule 374 and Rule 374A of the Lok Sabha Rules for the Lok Sabha and Rule 256 of the Rajya Sabha Rules for Rajya Sabha.

ALSO READ: CBI has registered preliminary enquiry against TMC MP Mahua Moitra on directions of Lokpal

As per the rules, “the Speaker or Chairman, as the case may be, may name any member to be suspended in case of wilful disregard for the rules of the House or causing disruption in conducting sessions.”

“After naming, a motion to that effect is moved, and that member is suspended for a period not exceeding the remaining days of that session,” it adds.

Who sets rules for Privileges Committee?

In the Lok Sabha, both the privileges and the ethics panel come under the same branch. While the privileges committee looks into complaints raised by MPs against officials, media or other MPs, the ethics panel is the only committee that probes the layperson’s complaints against lawmakers of the Lok Sabha.

Coming to the rules that apply to these committees, Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution deal with Privileges. These Articles maintain that the rules and Regulations which would govern the privileges (including breach of such privilege) shall be determined by Parliament.

Therefore, Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly has the power to lay down such Regulations which would also provide for the various privileges, breach of such privilege and the punishment for the breach of that privilege which can be imposed.

(With inputs from Supreme Court lawyer Nipun Saxena)

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Published: 08 Dec 2023, 08:58 PM IST

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