Many Loopholes In The Case Against Mahua Moitra

Many Loopholes In The Case Against Mahua Moitra

The one thing that certainly can be said to be wrong is that neither was Moitra given a chance to cross examine Dehadrai nor was he cross examined by others, something that has been the norm in such cases

Premangshu RayUpdated: Monday, April 08, 2024, 07:45 PM IST
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement seeking support for Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), who was expelled from the Lok Sabha, is not out of place or unwarranted. The stand taken by Banerjee, the head of the TMC, is consistent with her earlier statement in the matter and also echoes the sentiments of a large section of politicians and the general public. It also gains credence because of the lack of due process, the absence of proof with regard to the cash-for-query allegations levelled against Moitra, and also because the locus standi of the person whose affidavit has been used as the primary document in the case is questionable.

There are two primary charges against Moitra. One charge is that she has taken cash and gifts for asking questions that would benefit a businessman, Darshan Hiranandani, and also discredit another businessman, Gautam Adani, and supposedly highlight links between the latter and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The second charge is that Moitra has passed on her login credentials and password to Hiranandani, who used to frame the questions that she was to ask in Parliament.

The second charge is easily disposed off. The Ethics Committee of the House, which recommended Moitra’s expulsion, made a case that the MP had endangered national security. However, it has reportedly acknowledged that several MPs share their login credentials with others. It is interesting to note that Janata Dal (United) MP Giridhari Yadav reportedly said: “I do not upload my questions myself.... My PS (personal secretary) does it. I do not know how to operate a computer ... so my staff does that for me. I do not even remember my own password.”

It also should be kept in mind that the Lok Sabha secretariat changed the rules for accessing the Parliament website following the row in this regard involving Moitra. As such, personal staff or any third party will now not be able to access the Digital Sansad website and give notices or submit questions on an MP's behalf and only parliamentarians themselves will be able to use the site by using their individual login details. This is also at the very least evidence of the secretariat’s acceptance that people other than the parliamentarians had been able to access the site and not only in Moitra’s case.

The other charge, that of taking cash and gifts for asking questions, is mired in anomalies. A letter by Supreme Court advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, with whom Moitra had a relationship, to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Nishikant Dubey and a formal complaint made by him to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are the basis on which action has been taken against the TMC leader in this regard. However, the letter to Dubey merely states that he is placing on record his complaint to the CBI, which itself makes a lot of allegations and claims, none of which are even close to being substantiated. The only thing that is substantiated in the complaint to the CBI is that a majority of the questions that were listed as having been asked by Moitra pertain to the Adani group.

One would then ask whether it is wrong for people’s representatives to raise questions in Parliament, even repeatedly, if they perceive some supposed wrongdoing. MPs are meant to question the policies and actions of the government whenever they see something potentially wrong or even when they see something that could and should have been done differently.

The complaint also alleges that Moitra took instructions from Hiranandani to ask specific questions related to his business interests. One wonders how Dehadrai learnt of this, especially as Moitra is alleged to have tried to keep her ties with the businessman a secret. It also alleges that Moitra took “regular delivery of packets of cash”. Again, the question that arises is how Dehadrai is aware of this, especially as Moitra reportedly was keen to keep this under wraps. Dehadrai’s allegations are just that – allegations – and there is not a shred of evidence to back up any claim of wrongdoing on Moitra’s part.

No cash was found by any investigation agency that could possibly raise questions about unaccounted for wealth or even be called a surprisingly large amount of money. It should also be kept in mind that, before she became a politician, Moitra had a job where the pay would be considerable and this would also account for her lifestyle and her choice of cosmetics and electronic gadgets such as mobile phones.

It is also curious that Dehadrai chose to take his case not to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the TMC chief but to the very BJP MP who used to counter all the statements made by Moitra when she raised questions in Parliament. It is pertinent to note that, with regard to alleged abuse of Parliamentary rules, the complainant is not an MP but a person who had a relationship with Moitra that has since gone sour.

The one thing that certainly can be said to be wrong is that neither was Moitra given a chance to cross examine Dehadrai nor was he cross examined by others, something that has been the norm in such cases. This point was also raised by one member of the Ethics panel but to no avail.

All this only goes to show irrefutably once again that the charges against Moitra were meant solely to ensure that she is unable to raise questions that the ruling party would be uncomfortable with or have no answers to. The TMC leader, who has refused to cow down, has now been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate — an action that is seen as another attempt to browbeat her into submission.

(Premangshu Ray is Executive Editor, The Free Press Journal, and writes on socio-political issues.)

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