Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra’s Supreme Court hearing regarding her expulsion from the Lok Sabha has been postponed into the new year. Moitra was expelled on December 8 over cash-for-query allegations where she allegedly asked questions on behalf of Darshan Hiranandani in Parliament, in exchange for gifts and money. Post this, the opposition staged a walk-out protesting against this expulsion where Moitra was accompanied by leaders of the INDIA bloc. Moitra proceeded to address the media by saying, ‘This Lok Sabha has seen the weaponisation of a parliamentary committee.’
Moitra was also found guilty by the ethics committee of not following the code of conduct by sharing her login credentials with another person considering her in ‘Contempt of the House’. The ex-MP, in her speech to the media, also addressed this issue by saying, “There are no rules whatsoever to govern the sharing of logins. […] In essence, [the ethics committee] is finding me guilty of breaking a code of ethics that does not exist.”
According to the Lok Sabha Secretariat Intranet, members of Parliament can only retain their housing allotted to them for a maximum period of thirty days after ceasing to be a member of the Lok Sabha. Consequently, she was asked to leave her government accommodation in Delhi by January 7, as it was allotted to her due to her position in the Lower House. After moving the Supreme Court about her expulsion from Parliament, which she called ‘arbitrary’ and ‘substantially illegal’, she approached the Delhi High Court about her eviction from her accommodation.
The Supreme Court postponed the hearing of Moitra’s plea, where she alleges unethical expulsion, to January 3, when the Court opens following the winter break. After trying to get a date for the hearing, Moitra’s counsel, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi was assured that the court would do the needful in time. However, the hearing was subsequently pushed to January 3, considering the date that the ex-MP has to leave her government-allotted housing. A few days later, the Delhi High Court adjourned the hearing regarding the accommodation to January 4, just after the Supreme Court hearing. The Delhi HC said that to pass any orders at this stage would be to ‘impinge on the pending matter before the Supreme Court’. Mahua Moitra has requested permission to retain her housing until the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
While Moitra was challenging these allegations against her in the courts and in the media, 100 MPs were suspended from the Lok Sabha, and 46 were suspended from the Rajya Sabha. The reason for this mass suspension has been stated as ‘disrupting proceedings’ by staging a protest in the Lower House, asking for a statement and a debate from the Home Minister. Post the suspensions, the INDIA bloc is staging protests across the country.
While more than half of the opposition was absent in the Lok Sabha, three new criminal law bills were passed in the Parliament last week, which are set to replace the outdated Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 from the colonial era. This comes four months after the government withdrew the bills in order to redraft them. After these bills were passed in the Parliament where 19% of the opposition has been suspended, they received the assent of President Draupadi Murmu on December 25.
Edited by; Victoria Muzio
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