Mahua Moitra expelled: Lok Sabha panel report flags ‘highly objectionable’ conduct
The Trinamool Congress leader was expelled as a Lok Sabha member on Friday.
New Delhi Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha on Friday over cash-for-query allegations after the Lower House adopted a report by the ethics committee, which recommended her expulsion for sharing her login credentials and password with an unauthorised person, its impact on national security, and accepting gifts and possibly cash as a “quid pro quo” from businessman Darshan Hiranandani.
The report noted three aspects.
One, it found Moitra guilty of unethical conduct and contempt of the House for sharing her Lok Sabha login credentials -- user ID and password of the Lok Sabha members portal -- to unauthorised person and its impact on national security.
“The serious misdemeanours on the part of Smt Mahua Moitra calls for severe punishment. The Committee, therefore, recommend that Smt Mahua Moitra, MP may be expelled from the membership of the 17th Lok Sabha. In view of highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal conduct of Smt. Mahua Moitra, the Committee recommend for an intense, legal, institutional inquiry by the Government of India in a time-bound manner,” the report of the panel said.
The panel said that a “threadbare examination” had established, beyond doubt, that Moitra had “deliberately” shared her Lok Sabha login credentials with Hiranandani. “Therefore, Smt Mahua Moitra is guilty of unethical conduct, breach of her privileges available to members of Parliament and contempt of the House.”
The committee also flagged a potential national security threat.
“The highly objectionable and deplorable conduct of Smt. Mahua Moitra also prima facie has an impact on the national security. However, the extent of national security compromised by such irrepressible and reckless actions of Smt Mahua Moitra could only be pragmatically quantified by undertaking a structured institutional by the Government of India. Notwithstanding this, all the above narrated serious misdemeanours on the part of Smt Mahua Moitra calls for severe punishment...”
Two, it examined the alleged unethical conduct and contempt of House committed by Moitra by accepting amenities and various other facilities from Hiranandani based in Dubai.
The panel said Moitra told the panel November 2, 2023, that she did take a few gifts, used Hiranandani’s car and go the layout plans of her official bungalow prepared. “On this aspect, the committee have also take note of the contradiction between the versions of Smt Mahua Moitra and Shri Darshan Hiranandani, as the former had claimed that these gifts, amenities and facilities were given by the latter, whereas, Shri Hiranandani, in his notarized affidavit had worded this as “she also made frequent demands of me and kept asking me for various favours”.
“The committee further note that Smt. Mahua Moitra allegedly demanded favours including cash, expensive luxury items, providing support on renovation of her officially allotted bungalow in Delhi, travel expenses, holidays, etc., apart from seeking secretarial and logistical help for her travels within India and to different parts of the world.”
The panel was clear that taking gifts and other facilities from a businessman, whom Moitra had handed over her official login credentials so that this businessman could “directly operate her members’ portal” and post parliamentary questions, may be in small quantity or on a few occasions, but still amounted to illegal gratification and a ”quid pro quo” which is not only “unbecoming” of an MP but also “unethical conduct”.
Three, on the question of cash being exchanged, the committee said it wanted to candidly point out that it did not have the technical wherewithal and expertise to criminally investigate and unearth the money trail, which it described as the task of central government institutions.
“The committee, therefore, recommend that the cash transaction between Smt Mahua Moitra and Shri Darshan Hiranandani as a part of ‘quid pro quo’ could be investigated by the Government of India in a time-bound manner,” it said.
The report flagged 47 logins from Dubai, where Hiranandani is based, using the same IP address. Among 61 posted questions, 50 were deemed favouring Hiranandani’s business, invoking the Information Technology Act for fraudulent password sharing.
Moitra flagged discrepancies
Moitra denied any acceptance of gratification and highlighted discrepancies in Hiranandani’s claims regarding alleged gifts and expenses. She stressed on the distinction between her official email access and the password shared for the members’ portal, used solely for posting questions and managing travel reimbursements. Moitra clarified that she shared this specific password with Hiranandani’s assistant, with her authorisation through an OTP due to her Bengali-speaking official assistants facing language barriers.
Furthermore, Moitra stated that although questions were posted by Hiranandani’s staff, they were indeed her inquiries. However, the committee report raised concerns about conflicting business interests between Adani and Hiranandani. While admitting to receiving gifts and travel facilities from Hiranandani, Moitra reiterated that no cash transactions were involved.
Chairman asked about ‘dear friend’
During the cross examination, the report showed that chairman Vinod Sonkar asked Moitra why she considered Hiranandani as a “dear friend”. Moitra replied that “dear” was word that meant close to somebody and who one was fond of. She also mentioned that if she wrote a letter to the chairman, she would begin it with, “dear chairperson sir”.
Subsequently, the chairman asked what type of friendship exists between Moitra and Hiranandani. Moitra objected to it and said it was a cheap question. The chairman also asked if Moitra knew Hiranandani’s wife and what sort of a relationship she had with her? Moitra replied that she took strong umbrage at this line of questioning .
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