Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra Faces Lok Sabha Ethics Committee in ‘Cash for Query’ Probe

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Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra attended a deposition before the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Thursday regarding allegations of ‘Cash for Query’ against her. The committee, led by BJP MP Vinod Sonkar and consisting of MPs V Vaithilingam, Danish Ali, Sunita Duggal, Aparajita Sarangi, Parneet Kaur, Swami Sumedhanand, and Rajdeep Roy, commenced the proceedings in the committee room in the morning.

Previously, on November 2, Moitra had written a letter to the ethics panel, requesting a summons date after November 5 due to pre-scheduled Vijaya Dashmi programs. However, the panel insisted she appear before it today.

The ‘Cash for Query’ charges against Moitra were leveled by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey, alleging that she accepted bribes from Dubai-based businessman Hiranandani to raise questions in Parliament targeting the Adani Group. Dubey also wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, seeking a probe into the matter, claiming that Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai provided evidence of alleged bribes.

Jai Anant Dehadrai, the BJP MP and Supreme Court advocate who is the complainant in the case, provided oral evidence of the allegations before the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on October 26.

On Wednesday, Moitra released her letter to the Ethics Committee chairman, BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar, through her X handle. In her two-page letter, she claimed that Dehadrai provided no documentary evidence to support his allegations in either the written complaint or the oral hearing. Moitra requested the right to cross-examine Dehadrai, citing the principles of natural justice.

She also emphasized the importance of allowing the alleged ‘bribe-giver’ Darshan Hiranandani to provide evidence in the form of a documented inventory with amounts and dates and expressed her desire to cross-examine him. Moitra requested a written response from the Ethics Committee regarding the decision to allow or disallow cross-examination.

Moitra raised concerns about the double standards of the Ethics Committee, citing a different approach in the case of BJP MP Ramesh Biduri, who is facing a serious complaint of hate speech. She pointed out that Biduri was summoned on October 10, 2023, to provide oral evidence but did not attend. No further hearing date has been scheduled for Biduri.

Lastly, Moitra questioned the committee’s jurisdiction in investigating alleged criminality, emphasizing that parliamentary committees lack criminal jurisdiction and were specifically designed to prevent potential misuse by a government with a strong parliamentary majority.

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