11 MPs expelled from Parliament
New Delhi, December 23
The argument of the BJP that proper procedure should be adopted in taking action against the unethical members rather than taking summary action failed to cut ice. The Congress and the Left maintained that the dignity of the House must be preserved not by any proclamation from the Supreme Court or any other court but by the members themselves.
The motion for expelling the said MPs was moved in the Lok Sabha by leader of the House and Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee who called for “rising to the occasion and taking courage in both our hands to face the consequences”.
BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who had appended a dissenting note in the five-member probe panel headed by Pawan Kumar Bansal of the Congress, moved an amendment to the resolution seeking that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee. He apprehended by going through with the expulsion of the MPs, the House would be setting a wrong Parliamentary precedent leading to a cascading effect of similar action being taken by various Assemblies coupled with the intervention by the Judiciary.
The motion for expelling the MPs in keeping with the recommendation of the Bansal Committee was adopted by voice vote amid a walkout by the BJP. However, the JD (United) a constituent of the BJP-led NDA, stayed put in the House supporting the expulsion of the members. Later, the JD (U) insisted that the punishment meted out to the MPs caught in the scam was not commensurate with their offence.
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee observed in the course of the debate that the decision to appoint a House committee to probe the cash-for-questions scam was not taken by him unilaterally but in consultation with party leaders.
Responding to the contention of a BJP member, Mr Chatterjee said “it is unfair to bring the Chair into controversy”.
The report of the Bansal panel tabled in the Lok Sabha yesterday held that the allegations of accepting money by the 10 members has been established. “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that accepting money had a direct connection with the work in Parliament,” the Bansal committee affirmed.
The ten 10 members expelled from the 14th Lok Sabha were:
Annasahib M.K. Patil, Y.G. Mahajan, Pradeep Gandhi, Suresh Chandel and Chandra Pratap Singh (all BJP), Narendra Kumar Khushwaha, Lal Chandra Kol and Rajaram Pal (all BSP) and Manoj Kumar (RJD) and Ramsewak Singh (Congress).
The last time a Lok Sabha member had been expelled was way back in 1951. It pertained to H.G. Mudgal because of his dealing with a Bombay Bullion association.
The lone Rajya Sabha member to be expelled this evening was Chhatarpal Singh Lodha of the BJP which adopted the report of the Ethics Committee headed by Mr Karan Singh.
In the House of Elders, too, the BJP wanted the matter to be referred to the Privileges Committee. At the same time the party supported the resolution when it came up for voting. The lone member expressing his dissent was Mr Sharad Joshi of the Swatantra Bharat who opposed the resolution.
Stoutly defending the recommendation of the Ethics Committee to expel Mr Lodha, Dr Karan Singh in moving the resolution said that the Rajya Sabha had the power to expel its member. He drew specific attention to Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat urging the Ethics Committee to “uphold the dignity of the House”.
Stressing that no party politics was involved in it, Dr Karan Singh said there was unanimity among the members that the behaviour and manner of the MP was not desirable.
Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh drew attention to serious moral and legal issues and said the House should remain united in deciding the issue.
Mr Jaswant Singh cautioned Parliament about the limits of its powers. Handing out punishment should be pondered over carefully.
The Ethics Committee in its report said Mr Lodha’s conduct “is derogatory to the dignity of the House. The member’s conduct was inconsistent with the Code of Conduct which has been adopted by the House”.
Further, the Karan Singh committee said “perhaps the time has come for Parliament to consider the broad question of regulating such undercover operations which necessarily involve expenditure of large sums of money by the agencies concerned and also an intrusion into the individual’s privacy”.
Meanwhile, the CPM criticised the BJP for dilly dallying on taking action against the MPs involved in the cash-for-questions scandal. Stringent measures would serve as a warning for future parliamentarians.