Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: The expulsion of Trinamool Congress MP from the Lok Sabha by a hurried voice vote, based on a report of the Ethics Committee of the House seems dangerous for parliamentary democracy.
MORE ON THE NEWS:
- By a 6:4 majority, including the vote of suspended Congress MP, the ethics committee recommended the expulsion of MP on the charges of ‘unethical conduct,’ ‘breach of privilege’ and ‘contempt of the House.’
- The committee cited in its report a precedent of the expulsion of 11 MPs in 2005 for a cash-for-query sting operation by a news platform. However, there was video evidence that established a strong case then, unlike the charges against the recent case.
- Not enough scrutiny: There was not enough scrutiny conducted for the expulsion of MP in this case. The committee itself conceded in its report that it had no proof of cash exchanges, but it was emphatic in calling for her expulsion, and even labelled the sharing of her login credentials a criminal act. The report of the Ethics Committee was tabled and voted in a hurry rejecting the appeal of Opposition MPs for a more detailed discussion.
- Lack of transparency: One of the issues raised by the Ethics Committee is regarding endangering national security as some parliamentary documents are not in public domain. This means by giving the login credentials to a non-MP Ms. Moitra has violated the privileges of the parliamentarians and also undermined national security. However, this argument is against the principles of parliamentary form of government which is transparency in government functioning. Ideally, what parliamentarian have access to should also be available to the common people.
- Overlap with Privileges Committee: The work of the Ethics Committee and the Privileges Committee often overlap. An allegation of corruption against an MP can be sent to either body, but usually more serious accusations go to the Privileges Committee. The mandate of the Privileges Committee is to safeguard the “freedom, authority, and dignity of Parliament”.
However, often there is no such differences and often lead to contradictory situations.
- Enforcing Brute Majority: The precedent that the majority in Parliament can expel an Opposition member on a dubious charge is dangerous for parliamentary democracy. The recent expulsion of MP is a case of justice hurried and buried.
THE WAY FORWARD:
- Need of more scrutiny: The Parliamentary committee should take more time to study the case to reach at efficient and just conclusion. The extended time should be seen as an opportunity for deeper scrutiny to tackle all the issues raised in the case.
- Balancing Authority and Rights: The recent case underscores the need to strike a delicate balance between parliamentary authority and the rights of its members.
- Judicial Oversight: The potential for judicial review emphasizes the importance of legal oversight in maintaining democratic principles and fairness in legislative processes. It can be enforced for effective working of parliamentary system.
Parliamentary privileges are conferred on the members for the smooth functioning of the parliament. Mandating scrutiny of parliamentarians are not a hurdle to the legislative process, but it should be aimed at improving quality of governance rather than curbing on rights of parliamentarians.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS
Q.1 “Parliament’s power to amend the constitution is limited power and it cannot be enlarged into absolute power”. In light of this statement, explain whether parliament under article 368 of the constitution can destroy the basic structure of the constitution by expanding its amending power? (2019)
Q.2 The role of individual MPs (Members of Parliament) has diminished over the years and as a result healthy constructive debates on policy issues are not usually witnessed. How far can this be attributed to the anti-defection law, which was legislated but with a different intention? (2013)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q.1 Discuss the role of ethics committee in ensuring accountability in parliamentary system. Suggest ways to improve its effectiveness.Spread the Word