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Mahua Moitra Case Explained: What's Cash-For-Query Case, What Does Lok Sabha Ethics Panel Report Say?

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra has been accused of taking bribe from businessman Darshan Hiranandani for asking questions in the Lok Sabha.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra
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The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Friday tabled the report on Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra in the cash-for-query case.

Moitra has been accused of taking bribes from businessman Darshan Hiranandani for asking questions in the Lok Sabha. The allegations were levelled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Nishikant Dubey based on inputs from Moitra's estranged partner Jai Dehadrai, who is a lawyer in the Supreme Court.

Six of the 10 members of the ethics committee had recommended the expulsion of Moitra from Lok Sabha. The report has become the centre of a storm in the house as the Opposition is terming it as political vendetta. Moitra's TMC has also flagged shortcomings in the report, such as Dubey not being called for testimony and the hurry in which the report was produced. 

Here we explain what allegations Moitra faces, what she has said, and what we know about the report.

What's Mahua Moitra 'Cash-For-Query' Case?

The 'cash-for-query' case against TMC MP Mahua Moitra stems from a complaint by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey. In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Dubey alleged that Moitra took bribes from businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask around 50 questions in the house that were intended to promote his business interests. 

Moitra's questions were focussed on the Adani business group and were part of the campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, said Dubey in the letter.

"The questions were also often focused on the Adani Group, another business conglomerate, Hiranandani Group was bidding for business against. The entire conspiracy does not end here. In the past few years, a clever facade was crafted, when Smt Mahua Moitra, as Opposition leader, vehemently targeted our Honourable Prime Minister and Respected Home Minister, constantly referencing to the Adani Group, giving the impression that she was critical of the Government, possibly with the intention of seeking cover against her clandestine criminal operation," said Dubey in the letter, referring to the frequent mentions of the Opposition of an alleged corrupt nexus between Modi and industrialist Gautam Adani. 

Businessman Darshan Hiranandani Admitted Allegations

Later, businessman Darshan Hiranandani in an affidavit claimed that Moitra had shared her parliamentary email credentials with him and he asked questions related to the Adani Group. He also claimed that Moitra also sought luxury goods and money for travel and renovation at her house from him. 

In the affidavit, a copy of which surfaced in media reports, Hiranandani said he asked those questions with the hope that his business interests in the Opposition-ruled states would be secured by such acts. 

"Ms. Moitra drafted a few questions that would have elements to embarrass the Government by targeting the Adani group; questions that she could raise in Parliament. She shared with me her email ID as Member of Parliament, so that I could send her information, and she could raise the questions in the Parliament. I went along with her proposal...She therefore requested me to keep supporting her in her attacks on the Adani group and provided me her Parliament login and password so that I could post the questions directly on her behalf when required," said Hiranandani, as per a copy of the affidavit in media reports. 

The affidavit further said, "Over a period, my friendship with Ms Mahua Moitra grew. I also felt that, through her, I would get support in other States ruled by the Opposition...Importantly, she also made frequent demands of me and kept asking me for various favours, which I had to fulfil in order to remain in close proximity with her and get her support. The demands that were made and favours that were asked included, gifting her expensive luxury items, providing support on renovation of her officially allotted bungalow in Delhi, travel expenses, holidays, etc, apart from providing secretarial and logistical help for her travels within India and to different parts of the world."

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How Did Mahua Moitra Respond?

In her response to the affidavit, TMC MP Mahua Moitra termed it "a joke" and questioned its authenticity as it was written on a plain white paper and not on any letterhead. She also claimed that it was written at the behest of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Moitra also termed her estranged partner Jai Dehadrai, who BJP's Dubey mentioned in his complaint, as a "jilted ex".

"Jai Dehadrai is not some 'Supreme Court lawyer' who has done painstaking research on me. He is a jilted ex with an acrimonious personal history with me who wanted to somehow get back at me. If indeed he was witness to all of my corruption why was he with me during the time and why did he wait till now to make it public?" said Moitra in a response shared on Twitter.

What We Know So Far Of Ethics Panel's Report

Six of the 10 members of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee earlier voted to expel TMC MP Mahua Moitra from the house. 

Ethics panel chief Vinod Kumar Sonkar of the BJP tabled the report in the Lok Sabha on Friday. A copy of the report is not yet available on the website. 

The report has recommended Moitra's expulsion for "unethical conduct" and "contempt of the House" for sharing parliamentary email credentials with an "unauthorised person", according to The Print, which adds that the report further said that such conduct could possibly have had national security implications as well.

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The report has also called for a formal government investigation into allegations against Moitra.

"The money trail of cash transaction between Smt. Mahua Moitra and Shri Darshan Hiranandani as a part of quid pro quo should be investigated by the Government of India in a legal, institutional, and time-bound manner...However, the extent of national security compromised by such irrepressible and reckless actions of Smt Mahua Moitra could only be pragmatically quantified by undertaking structured institutional inquiry by the Government of India," says the report, according to The Print.

The Print further quoted the report as calling for "severe punishment" that could not be less than "immediate expulsion" from Lok Sabha.

TMC, Congress Trash Ethics Panel's Report

The TMC and Congress have trashed the report of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Mahua Moitra.

While the TMC called the report on Moitra "political vendetta", Congress MP Shashi Tharoor dubbed the report "inadequate" and said due procedures were not followed. He further said that the 26-party INDIA coalition agrees it is a "travesty of justice" that would set an "undesirable" precedent. 

TMC Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay raised a series of questions at the report, according to PTI. 

"The first meeting (of the ethics panel) ended in a short time and could not produce any result. Why was a second meeting not held? Why such a hurry?...The whole country has seen how the first meeting started and ended. This projection of the outcome and result of the meeting cannot go to the extent that one Member of Parliament is expelled," said Bandyopadhyay, further asking that why the MP, BJP's Dubey, who alleged that Moitra was paid cash for queries not called for the meeting.

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The Opposition members have insisted that there should be a discussion in the house before a decision is taken on Moitra's ouster from the house. The Opposition has also termed the report a "fixed match" and said the complaint filed by Dubey was not supported by a "shred of evidence".

The Congress party has termed the case against Moitra as a "political conspiracy". Earlier, in a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, "But our position is very clear that this is a political conspiracy to harass, to target Mahua Moitra. We will oppose any measure that the government will bring in order to suspend or expel her...hey (government) will have to introduce a resolution to expel her and we will oppose it...We certainly want a discussion on the ethics committee report and we want Moitra to be given an opportunity to respond to the various charges made against her."

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