Over 100 Concerned Citizens Protest Removal of Mahua Moitra from Parliament
TMC leader Mahua Moitra during an interview with PTI, in Nadia, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI
New Delhi: In a surprising turn of events, over 120 concerned citizens have united to decry the expulsion of Ms. Mahua Moitra from the Parliament. Many of these individuals include retired bureaucrats, writers, activists, and lawyers.
Ms Moitra, a Trinamool Congress (TMC) Member of Parliament, faces potential removal for raising genuine concerns about a corporate group's activities with significant public interest implications. The citizens, expressing their distress, question the constitutionality of the expulsion and emphasise the need for a thorough examination of the issues raised by Ms Moitra. The statement released by the concerned citizens outlines their apprehensions and urges parliamentary and judicial scrutiny before any decisive action is taken.
The expulsion of Mahua Moitra is against public interest!
Statement by Concerned Citizens
As concerned citizens, we wish to express our anguish and distress at the way Ms. Mahua Moitra, a distinguished Member of Parliament, has been treated for raising genuine concerns about a corporate group's activities that could have far-reaching public interest implications.
From news reports (source), we understand that Ms. Moitra may face expulsion from the Parliament on the basis of certain allegations that are yet to be subjected to strict parliamentary and judicial scrutiny in compliance with established norms of natural justice.
There are larger issues that arise from this with regard to the necessity of the political executive remaining accountable to the Parliament and the public at large.
We feel that the issues arising in the case of Ms. Moitra cannot be viewed narrowly as an inter-corporate conflict of interest. They are more in the nature of issues arising in the case of one corporate entity and the people of India. Unless those issues are examined as outlined below in their entirety, we feel that the Parliament will be doing a grave injustice to itself and also to Ms. Moitra.
When there are reports of a corporate entity failing to comply with the rule of law and established norms of corporate governance, should the executive and/or a Joint Parliamentary Committee, as demanded by several political parties, instead of enquiring into the veracity of those reports and placing the facts before the Parliament and the public, use its power of privilege meant for the public good to question those who raise those concerns, intimidate them, and gag dissent? Does not such conduct on the part of the executive hurt the public interest?
At one time, the Companies Act prohibited corporate donations to political parties. As electoral corruption and profligacy in election expenditure started increasing, successive governments chose to dilute that Act to permit private companies to fund elections. During the last nine years, the present government went far beyond that and opened the floodgates to corporate donations, including donations from foreign sources. As if that was not enough, it introduced a highly regressive system of Electoral Bonds that have permitted political parties to receive donations from anonymous individuals and corporate bodies, which in turn deprived the citizens of their “right to know” under Article 19 of the Constitution. This has made it easy for private companies to fund the political parties and, in turn, influence them to grant them quid pro quos in terms of dilution of environmental and other laws and compromising institutions to suit their interests.
In the instant case, the manner in which the political executive has responded to questions on instances of irregularities in corporate governance highlights the strong nexus that exists between the political executive and big businesses and its deleterious implications for the public interest.
Ms. Moitra's participation in the Parliamentary proceedings brought to light many issues of importance that the people of this country would never have been privy to. Her threatened exit from the Parliament will certainly create a void in the continuing discourse on such issues.
With specific reference to the matter concerning Ms. Moitra, we wish to place on record the following concerns:
Natural justice requires that a person facing an accusation be given adequate opportunity to have access to all evidence put forward in support of such an accusation, cross-examine witnesses, if any, who have made such an accusation and present his/her case in detail, without which the process of considering the veracity of that accusation may stand vitiated from the point of view of the principles of natural justice.
If an accused person were to be penalised, the penalty needs to be in proportion to the extent the accusation is established beyond all doubt.
The expulsion of a member of any legislature is a serious matter which has wider implications for our democracy. It calls for careful examination and circumspection on the part of the Parliament and the other legislative bodies before such a far-reaching decision is taken.
We once again wish to place on record our serious concern at the reported action to expel her from the Parliament.
We sincerely hope that the Hon'ble Speaker, to whom Ms Moitra has addressed a detailed letter (source), will allow her to continue as a Member of the Parliament and add value to its proceedings.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.