Mahua Moitra Denied Permission To Speak During Discussion On Ethics Report

Mahua Moitra on Ethics Panel Report: Calls for Ms Moitra to be allowed to speak in Parliament - raised as the fundamental right of an accused to defend themselves against any allegation - were led by MPs from her party, beginning with Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

Mahua Moitra is a Trinamool Congress leader (File).

New Delhi:

The motion Friday to expel Mahua Moitra from the Lok Sabha saw a heated discussion on a central question - can Ms Moitra, who is accused of taking bribes, including Rs 2 crore in cash, from businessman Darshan Hiranandani - respond directly to the charges brought against her.

READ | Mahua Moitra Expelled From Parliament Over Cash-For-Query Row

Calls for Ms Moitra to be allowed to speak - raised as the fundamental right of an accused to defend themselves against any allegation - were led by Trinamool MPs, beginning with Sudip Bandyopadhyay. "What I propose - my party's spokesperson will be Mahua Moitra herself because allegation is against her. Wild allegations have been raised. Whether true or wrong, let her speak..."

The demand Mahua Moitra be allowed to speak was also backed by a second Trinamool Congress MP - Kalyan Banerjee - who too said it was the party's wish that Ms Moitra speak on their behalf.

"If the accused person is not heard... can there be a fair trial? A fair trial can only exist if the accused is given an opportunity to be heard. Today, we are deciding on the expulsion of our colleague... when we are acting as an quasi-judicial body... I request you, kindly allow..." Mr Banerjee said.

The requests triggered an intense argument between MPs from the ruling BJP and those from the opposition, with Speaker Om Birla constantly calling for calm in an increasingly frenetic House.

From the government's side, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi quickly jumped up to cite a ruling by a former Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, in the 2005 'cash for query' scam that involved several former MPs, including six from the BJP and one from the Congress.

In that instance, Mr Joshi argued, then-Speaker Chatterjee said the MPs had presented their case before the Ethics Committee - which said the charges were true - and so no longer had the right to speak in the House. Citing those rules, Mr Birla said Ms Moitra would not be allowed to speak.

"I have a copy of the traditions that were followed earlier. Former Speakers Somnath Chatterjee and Pranab Mukherjee were here earlier...the rules and traditions they gave are considered our rules."

"Mr Chatterjee had said Members against whom there are accusations are given ample time to speak before the Committee...(and so did not have the right to speak in the House)," Mr Birla said.

Earlier today the 500-page Ethics Committee report on charges against Ms Moitra was tabled.

The 500-page report quoted Mr Hiranandani as saying, "... demands were made, and favours asked, included gifting expensive luxury items... travel expenses, holidays..."

READ | "Serious Misdemeanours Call For...": What Ethics Report On Mahua Moitra Says

Several opposition MPs, including those on the Ethics Committee, have spoken out in favour of their colleague. They have declared the report a "fixed match" and claimed the BJP has no evidence to support its charges. Ms Moitra's party, which remained silent in the initial stages of the inquiry, arguing it would wait for the report to be submitted before reacting, has since defended its member.

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