Mahua Moitra’s expulsion from Lok Sabha challenged in Supreme Court

Mahua Moitra

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Lok Sabha Secretary General to respond to a petition filed by Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra, who challenged her expulsion from the Lower House of Parliament over cash-for-query allegations. Moitra, a vocal critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was accused of taking bribes and gifts from businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions in Lok Sabha targeting the Adani group, a conglomerate with close ties to the government.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Dutta did not grant any interim relief to Moitra, who sought permission to attend the House proceedings pending the disposal of her petition. The bench said that allowing her plea would amount to admitting the main petition, which challenged the validity and legality of her expulsion. The bench also said that it would hear her plea for interim relief in March.

“We will hear your plea for interim relief in March,” Justice Khanna told senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, who represented Moitra. Singhvi argued that Moitra’s expulsion was arbitrary, illegal, and violative of her fundamental rights. He also contended that the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha, which recommended her expulsion, did not follow the principles of natural justice and fair play. He said that Moitra was not given a chance to defend herself and that the committee’s report was adopted in a hurry without any debate or discussion.

The top court, however, refused to issue notice to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha, who were named as respondents in Moitra’s petition. The bench said that it would only seek a reply from the Lok Sabha Secretary General, who is the custodian of the records and proceedings of the House.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Lok Sabha Secretary General, requested the court not to issue a formal notice and said that he would file a reply to Moitra’s plea within two weeks. Mehta also urged the court not to interfere in the internal disciplinary matters of a sovereign organ of the state. He said that the House had the power and authority to expel any member for misconduct and that the court should respect the separation of powers and the parliamentary privileges.

After hearing the arguments, the bench passed the order and agreed to conduct further hearings in the week commencing March 11.

Moitra, a first-time MP from Krishnanagar constituency in West Bengal, was expelled from the Lok Sabha on December 8, 2023, after the House accepted the recommendations of the Ethics Committee’s probe report on cash-for-query charges against her. The report, which was based on a complaint lodged by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, revealed that Moitra had shared her parliamentary login credentials with Hiranandani and that her account was accessed from multiple locations in one day. The report also alleged that Moitra had taken bribes and gifts from Hiranandani to ask questions in Lok Sabha to target the Adani group, which was accused of fraud and stock price manipulation.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi had moved a resolution to expel Moitra from the House for ‘immoral conduct’, which was passed by the House by voice vote. The opposition members staged a walk-out after a brief debate over the report. Trinamool’s plea that Moitra be allowed to speak in her defense was turned down by Speaker Om Birla, who reminded the opposition that the precedent was set in 2005 under the Congress rule when 10 MPs were expelled in a day by the House in a similar manner.

Mahua Moitra

Moitra, who is known for her fiery speeches and outspoken views, has denied the allegations and claimed that she was being targeted for exposing the nexus between the government and the Adani group. She has also accused the Ethics Committee of being biased and prejudiced against her. She has said that she was not given a fair opportunity to present her case and that the committee’s chairman Vinod Sonkar had asked her objectionable personal questions. She has also alleged that the complaint against her was motivated by her estranged partner and Supreme Court lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai, who had a custody dispute over their rottweiler dog named Henry.