Topic: GS2 – Indian polity
- Mahua Moitra received money from a businessman for putting questions up in
- The Speaker referred the complaint to the Ethics Committee for examination and a report.
- The Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha is a relatively new committee which was set up in 2000,with a mandate to examine every complaint that related to the unethical conduct of MPs referred to it and to recommend action.
- It was also tasked with formulating a code of conduct for MPs.
Definition of ‘unethical conduct’
- The term ‘unethical conduct’ has not been defined anywhere.
- It is left entirely to the committee to examine a particular act of conduct and decide whether it is unethical or not.
- In the past, the ethics committee has dealt with cases of MPs taking close female companions on parliamentary tours, misusing car parking labels, and taking along women and boys on foreign tours using the passports of their wives and sons.
- The committee has also dealt with cases of MPs accepting illegal gratification, which is a serious case involving breach of privilege and contempt of the House.
- If the complaint against Mahua Moitra is about her having accepted illegal gratification, then the case becomes a case of breach of privilege and cannot be dealt with by the ethics committee.
- Normally, cases of public servants accepting bribes are investigated by the criminal investigative agencies of the government. Parliamentary committees do not deal with criminal investigation.
Differences between parliamentary and judicial probes
- A parliamentary probe is not the same as a judicial probe.
- A judicial body probes a matter as in the statutes and Rules, and is conducted by judicially trained persons.
- Parliamentary committees consist of Members of Parliament who are not experts.
- Parliament has the power to scrutinise the executive, which is accountable to it, and therefore possesses investigative power also.
Procedure followed by parliamentary committees
- Parliamentary committees investigate matters through their committees which function under the Rules of the House.
- The usual methods are examination of the written documents placed before the committee by the complainant and the witnesses, oral examination of all the relevant witnesses, deposition of experts, if deemed necessary, sifting of the whole volume of evidence placed before the committee, and arriving at findings on the basis of the evidence.
- Findings are arrived at after the analysis of all the evidence made available to the committee.
- Overall, parliamentary investigations focus on assessing the conduct of MPs and breaches of privilege or contempt of the House, while criminal investigations are conducted by law enforcement agencies for criminal offenses.
Questions: Critically examine the powers and functions of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee in the light of the recent proceedings against Mahua Moitra.