The complaint to the Lokpal had been made by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey.
In a major development in the cash-for-query controversy involving Mahua Moitra, the Central Bureau of Investigation has begun a preliminary probe against the Trinamool Congress MP on the directions of the Lokpal, sources have told NDTV. A preliminary enquiry has been initiated and the agency will decide whether to file a criminal case against the MP based on the outcome of this enquiry.
Under a preliminary enquiry, the CBI cannot arrest an accused or conduct searches, but it can seek information, examine documents and also question the Trinamool MP. Since this enquiry was initiated based on the orders of the Lokpal, the report will be submitted to the anti-corruption body.
The CBI complaint in the case had been filed by Supreme Court lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai who had alleged that Ms Moitra had taken bribes from businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions in Parliament.
Mr Dehadrai had also written to BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and, based on Mr Dubey's complaint, Speaker Om Birla had referred the matter to the Ethics Committee. Mr Dubey had also filed a complaint with the Lokpal.
Reacting to the CBI beginning its probe, Ms Moitra said she was "amused to see" that a body that has no chairman had referred her case to the agency. She said that a Right to Information query had revealed that the Lokpal has been without a chairman since May 2002 and three of its eight member posts were vacant.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, she wrote, "Amused to see how headless LokPal with no full time Chairman "referred" my case to CBI. RTI of 3/11/23 says LokPal has no Chairman since May 2022 & 3 of 8 member posts also vacant! Maybe Jharkhand Branch of Pitbull Association also moonlighting as Lokpal Committee under BJP."
In an affidavit sent to the Ethics Committee, Mr Hiranandani had alleged that the Trinamool MP had shared her email ID as a Member of Parliament so that he could send her information and she could raise the questions in the Parliament. He claimed she later gave him her Parliament login and password so he could post the questions directly.
"Mahua Moitra wanted to quickly make a name for herself at the national level. She was advised by her friends and advisors that the shortest possible route to fame is by personally attacking PM Narendra Modi," Mr Hiranandani had alleged in the affidavit, adding, "Ms Moitra thought that the only way to attack PM Modi is by attacking Gautam Adani as both were contemporaries and belong to the same state of Gujarat."
Ethics Panel Findings
After conducting hearings, the Ethics Committee had, earlier this month adopted a report recommending Ms Moitra's expulsion from the House for accepting "illegal gratifications" from Mr Hiranandani to raise questions in Parliament at his behest. The report had been adopted by a 6:4 verdict, with four opposition members recording their disapproval
The report, which also recommended her expulsion for "unethical conduct" and "contempt of the House'', had been submitted to the office of Speaker Om Birla.
During a hearing on November 2, Ms Moitra had walked out claiming she had been asked "extremely personal and derogatory questions".
She had also accused Vinod Sonkar, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, of asking questions that had been given by Supreme Court lawyer Dehadrai, whom she had described as her "jilted ex".
The CBI move comes two days after West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee broke her silence on the controversy and said that Ms Moitra's chances would be boosted if she was expelled from the Lok Sabha based on the report by the Ethics Committee.
Ms Banerjee had said, "They have planned to chase out Mahua. She will become popular for three months. What she said inside... she will say outside. She will hold press conferences every day. What does she lose?"
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