Adhir Ranjan writes to Om Birla on ethics panel proceedings against Mahua Moitra

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhury has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to express support for Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra over the cash-for-query controversy and to request a fair probe into the situation.

Adhir Ranjan writes to Om Birla on ethics panel proceedings against Mahua Moitra

Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Congressman, has written to Speaker Om Birla to support Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra over the cash-for-query controversy. He is requesting a fair probe into the situation.

He stated that the House would be following a "very serious punishment and has very wide ramifications" if the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee's reported decision to remove Moitra over the matter is implemented.

In exchange for gifts or favors, Moitra is suspected of giving Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandai access to her Parliament login credentials so he may pose questions for the legislature. The TMC MP has always denied the accusations made against her, which were initially made public by Moitra's former boyfriend, Supreme Court attorney Jai Anant Dehadrai. Later, Nishikant Dubey of the BJP wrote to Om Birla about Dehadrai's claims and requested that they be looked into.

Dubey had brought up the 2005 cash-for-query incident, in which ten members of the Lok Sabha faced expulsion for accepting bribes in exchange for their questions being answered in Parliament.

Chowdhury stated in his letter that records show that, prior to Mahua Moitra's case, the ethics panel handled a very small number of cases, most of which involved alleged transgressions of general norms of conduct. The recommended punitive action in these cases was limited to admonition, reprimand, and suspension from House sessions for a predetermined amount of time.

"The 2005 case as well as the case of HD Mudgal that dates back to 1951 i.e., the days of the Provisional Parliament are fundamentally different not only in regard to the charges involved, but mainly on account of the 'mode' or process of examining and reporting and the 'significance of the evidence'," Choudhary wrote in his letter.

The leader of the Congress stated that all parties involved in the 2005 case—including the members accused of misdemeanors and the media professionals who conducted the sting operation—were questioned under oath, had their testimony recorded, and it was included in the panel's report. In the lawsuit against Mahua Moitra, he questioned if the required procedure was followed and whether an unquestionable money trail had been produced.

"According to rumors, the businessman from Dubai who allegedly held Mahua Moitra's "login credentials" for the Lok Sabha Portal and was asking questions on her behalf may not have been summoned by the committee to testify. The businessman's decision to turn against the member is also unclear, even if utilizing the login credentials to pose queries seemed to promote his interests. It is a frequent social habit to accept and give presents, which might seem costly depending on the standard used. According to Chowdhury, "it would be very difficult to link or attribute accepting gifts to being a money trial for deriving favors."

He brought out some issues with the procedures used in the reporting and investigation of the accusations made against the TMC MP.

He stated that although members must utilize the "official portal" to submit inquiries, access to and usage of the same for day-to-day activities need secretarial support or the assistance of assistants. The Congress leader's letter stated that "most 'tech-savvy' members may find it difficult, if not impossible, to 'use' the portal by oneself for placing questions in Parliament."

Om Birla was advised by Chowdhury to make sure that Lok Sabha members do not get gullible and end up on the "wrong side." He went on to say that all procedures pertaining to the operation of the Lok Sabha's official website needed to be examined.