M A I N   N E W S

BJP member gives dissenting note on Bansal panel report
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 22
The five-member panel, headed by Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal of the Congress, which probed the cash-for-questions scam in Parliament, has held by overwhelming majority that the continuance of the 10 Lok Sabha MPs caught on camera in a sting operation “will be untenable” and recommended that the “House may consider their expulsion”.

There was, however, one dissenting note from BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra who stressed no member of the Lok Sabha could be expelled except for the breach of privileges of the House. The matter must, therefore, be dealt with according to the rules of the Privileges Committee.

Consequently, Mr Malhotra contended that the matter must be referred to the Privileges Committee or the committee probing the cash-for-questions scandal adopt the rules of the Privileges Committee. In the Privileges Committee, he observed the tainted members would have the right of cross-examination, arguments as well as defence which is necessary for natural justice.

“I will not like to become a party to create a precedent by which a member can be expelled from the House without a proper procedure being adopted,” Mr Malhotra insisted.

The Bansal panel considered its inquiry and recommendation of expulsion of the erring MPs as a defining moment in the life of Parliament. Going by precedent, the panel noted that more than half a century ago on a resolution moved by Pandit Nehru in 1951 the Provisional Parliament had expressed its outright abhorrence of any member accepting money in return for advocating some cause in Parliament. This was with particular reference to H. G. Mudgal whose conduct was found to be derogatory to the dignity of the House and inconsistent with the standards which Parliament was entitled to expect of its members.

Considering the facts and circumstances of the case in its totality, the panel reached the firm opinion that the “allegations of accepting money by the 10 members have been established. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that accepting money had a direct connection with the work in Parliament,” the panel affirmed in its 36-page report tabled in the Lok Sabha today.

In pursuit of the Bansal panel recommendations, a resolution is likely to be moved in the Lok Sabha tomorrow expelling the 10 MPs from the House. The stormy winter session of Parliament ends tomorrow.

The expulsion of the MPs for being involved in the scam will bring down the strength of the BJP, Congress, the BSP and the RJD in the Lok Sabha. The BJP will be the biggest loser as its tally in the House of the People will come down to 131 from the existing 136. Similarly, the strength of the BSP will drop from 18 to 15, the Congress to 146 and the RJD to 23. The Congress and the RJD will have to see the back of one MP each.

It will the second time that Parliament will have to resort to an extreme step with the first having been witnessed in 1951 when Mr Mudgal was found guilty of entering into an arrangement with the Bombay Bullion traders for raising questions and other issues in the House for money.

Mr Mudgal sought to pre-empt his expulsion by handing in his resignation as an MP but late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru underlined that the House adopt a resolution expelling the member. Mr Mudgal was thus expelled.

The Bansal panel felt that the conduct of the members involved in the scam was unbecoming of the Members of Parliament and also unethical. Therefore, it was of the view that the conduct of the members calls for a strict action. Simultaneously, it stressed that stern action also needs to be taken against the middlemen, touts and persons masquerading as private secretaries of members since they are primarily responsible for inducing the members to indulge in such activities.

The panel noted that in the case of misconduct or contempts committed by its members, the House can impose these punishments: admonition, reprimand, withdrawal from the House, suspension from the service of the House, imprisonment and expulsion from the House.

Further, the panel stressed that the plea put forth by the 10 MPs that the video footages are “doctored/ morphed/edited has no merit. If the members had accepted the offer of the committee to view the relevant footage and pointed out the interpolated portions in the tape, there would have been justification for allowing their plea for more time to examine the whole tapes.

Having seen the unedited raw footage of the Cobrapost.com pertaining to some of the members, the committee has no valid reason to doubt the authenticity of the video footages.”

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