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Mahua Moitra Defers Appearance Before Ethics Panel on ‘Cash-for-Query’ Allegations

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The Trinamool MP has also raised concerns about the parliamentary committee's proceedings, wherein complainants were heard first, a move she deemed as a violation of the principles of natural justice.
Mahua Moitra

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra has postponed her appearance before the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into allegations of a "cash-for-questions" scandal involving her. The committee had summoned her for October 31. Still, in a detailed response to the summons, Moitra cited prior commitments tied to the Durga Puja festivities in her West Bengal constituency as the primary reason for her unavailability on that date. 

In her response, Mahua Moitra expressed her eagerness to present her side of the story and defend herself against allegations brought forth by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai. Moitra, known for her vocal role in the Opposition, pointed out her busy schedule during the Durga Puja period and the need to attend various pre-scheduled meetings from October 30 to November 4, making it logistically challenging for her to be in Delhi on October 31. 

Furthermore, the Trinamool MP raised concerns about the committee's proceedings. She noted that the committee had summoned and heard the complainants, Dubey and Dehadrai, before allowing her to testify, a move she deemed as a violation of the principles of natural justice. She referenced the case of Lok Sabha MP Ramesh Bidhuri, who was granted additional time due to pre-existing electoral commitments and argued for a similar extension in her case. 

Mahua Moitra also requested the opportunity to cross-examine industrialist Darshan Hiranandani, who is alleged to have provided her with gifts and favours. She insisted that Hiranandani's oral testimony was essential for a thorough investigation and a fair hearing. Moitra stressed that without Hiranandani's presence and detailed verification of the alleged gifts and benefits, any inquiry against her would be incomplete and unfair. 

The allegations against Moitra were triggered by an affidavit submitted by Dubai-based industrialist Darshan Hiranandani. In his affidavit, Hiranandani accused Moitra of accepting gifts and money in exchange for asking questions in Parliament with the intent to target the Adani Group and tarnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He further alleged that Moitra had shared her parliamentary login credentials with him, enabling him to post questions directly on her behalf. 

In response, Mahua Moitra called upon the Ethics Committee to summon Hiranandani and request a detailed and verified list of the alleged gifts and benefits. This move further extends the investigation, intensifying the controversy surrounding the "cash-for-questions" allegations.

Moitra emphasised her unblemished record of personal integrity and honesty both as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and a Member of Parliament (MP). She asserted the significance of allowing her to clear her name and protect her reputation in the face of what she described as a "motivated and malicious slander campaign."

The unfolding allegations and counterclaims in this ongoing controversy continue to raise questions about ethics and accountability within the Indian political landscape, highlighting the need for a thorough and transparent investigation to address the allegations and establish the truth. 

According to a report published in the Hindustan Times, Moitra said, "I represent the state of West Bengal, where Durga Puja is the biggest festival. I am already committed to attending numerous pre-scheduled Vijaya Dashami Sammelans/meetings (both government and political) in my constituency from 30th October to 4th November 2023 and cannot be in Delhi on 31st October 2023." 

She added, "Given that I am a vocal member of the Opposition responsible for raising my voice against various corporate scams and issues pertaining to national importance, it is vital for the fabric of Indian democracy that I am allowed to defend myself and clear my name in the face of this motivated and malicious slander campaign against me."

"It is imperative that he [Darshan Hiranandani] appears before the committee and provides a detailed verified list of the alleged gifts and favours he allegedly provides me," she said. 

According to Darshan Hiranandani's affidavit, it read, “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." "An affidavit notarized at the Indian High Commission in Dubai on 20/10/2023 was submitted on a suo moto basis to the Committee and released publicly to the media by Shri Darshan Hiranandani,” it concluded. Mitra has alleged that Hiranandani was pressured by the PMO to write the affidavit. 

The report also mentioned that BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said, "She [Mahua Moitra] had been accepting money and other inducements in return for asking questions in Parliament. Her parliamentary account was accessed from Dubai when she was in India."

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