Excerpts from the discussion in Rajya Sabha on the matter raised with permission of chair regarding Wikileaks exposure on alleged payment of money to MPs during no confidence motion against the UPA-I government in 2008, published by the Hindu
Arun Jaitley, BJP
There is a publication today of a cable sent in the year 2008 by an official of the US Embassy to the US establishment in Washington. It has been published today by the Hindu newspaper. The reading of this cable and the details mentioned therein, Sir, reflect an extraordinarily depressing situation of how our democracy has been reduced to and to what extent it has been reduced to. Sir, we had raised this issue in the year 2008 when the Left had withdrawn support from UPA-I and at that time a Vote of Confidence had been called in Parliament, there were detailed reports of floor crossing by MPs, of use of collateral consideration, moneys being displayed and all these factors were involved in influencing that Vote of Confidence.
Today, Sir, this accidental leak of an American confession in this regard completely establishes the worst that we had feared at that time. What appears to have happened is that the Government reduced to a minority was wooing political parties, was wooing Independent MPs and now it stands more or less established from statements made to the American Embassy officials by representatives of the ruling party, they were actually showed cashfilled war chests. Rogue war chests were collected to be utilized in order to influence this Vote of Confidence.
In the face of all this we say that by a thin majority of four against three, somebody had said so, let me say this and I said it earlier that these thin majorities do not confer any kind of legitimacy on these acts which seemed to have happened. You have important political functionaries now saying, "We may display to you the war chest which has been collected, and we will give you the names of the people to whom it is to be paid. We will also name.."
Let the Government reply after we finish.Of course, we need a reply from the Government.
Sir, a Government, which survived on the strength of such a political sin, such a moral sin, has no authority, no right, to continue even for one minute. We demand that this Government must resign immediately after this episode.
Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M)
Sir, this report, that has appeared today, these details of these exposures that have come today, these alleged exposures, constitute a humongous indictment in the way this Government has been functioning.
And this represents not only a gross degeneration of political morality, but it also represents a gross political opportunism in the manner in which this Government survives the Confidence Motion last time.
Sir, at that point of time when these images came on the national television, the whole country was shocked, and the other House set up what was known as a Cash for Votes Committee to investigate. Now, we do not know what happened to that Committee’s findings, but reliable information tells us that the findings suggested that there should be a criminal investigation into that entire happenings and the amount of money that was transferred etcetera, etcetera. We would want that criminal investigations to proceed now.
Secondly, Sir, if the Government feels that this was just a conspiracy, that these are allegations that have been hurled on the Government, we would want them to come and explain, to clear themselves here.
The allegations are so dangerous that they link up various individuals who are Members of this august House to the Gandhi family, to the Government and these are things that cannot be allowed to go unanswered and uninvestigated.
Therefore, Sir, what I am asking the Government is that you have this Cash for Votes Committee recommendations of which nobody knows, what it is. Proceed criminally on these charges. Proceed against these individuals or whatever that Committee has found out and establish guilt; otherwise, there is no moral ground for this Government to continue,
These have to be properly answered. And a criminal investigation is necessary; otherwise, the Government cannot convince us.
D. Raja, CPI
Sir, in the name of Mother India, I appeal to all political parties to address this issue with seriousness. This is, indeed, a very serious issue. Our democracy is in peril, our democratic polity is in peril. The Hindu is one of the reputed newspapers in the country and it has published WikiLeaks. It saddens me, it should sadden the Government, it should sadden everybody. What is happening in India? We, the Left parties did withdraw our support on the issue of the nuclear deal. The Government should have accepted; but, the Government wanted to survive and money was displayed in Lok Sabha! And, it is a sad day, according to the Speaker!
The point here is that the money power, added to it the external power, played a dangerous game. In such a situation, what should the Government have done? The Government should have taken a moral stand, ethical stand without getting into opportunism. Principles should have been upheld. But, instead of that, the Congress-led UPA Government, at that time, survived
I think, it is proper, appropriate that the Prime Minister comes and explains here what the stand of the Government is. I think, if the situation continues like this, the Government has lost its moral authority to stay in office and continue to rule this country because without the moral authority you cannot continue.
Pranab Mukherjee, Congress (I):
I would like to most respectfully submit that the correspondence between a sovereign Government and its missions abroad enjoy diplomatic immunity. No aspect should be made available to them. Therefore, it is not possible for the Government to either confirm it or deny it, because we enjoy diplomatic immunity. It is a correspondence between a sovereign Government and its mission located abroad.
Secondly, every Lok Sabha is sovereign during its period of tenure. What happened in the 14th Lok Sabha cannot be judged during the tenure of the 15th Lok Sabha. The 14th Lok Sabha was dissolved in May, 2009. Thereafter, the 15th Lok Sabha has come to exist. The Government of the day is a newly elected Government accountable to the 15th Lok Sabha and not accountable to the 14th Lok Sabha. Whatever happened in the 14th Lok Sabha, which has terminated, has ended.
The third point which I would like to submit for the consideration of the hon. Leader of the Opposition is that if he is satisfied that what appears in the newspapers is an admissible evidence in any court of law I will be satisied by his proclamation that it is an admissible evidence in any court of law in India as per the law. This is the submission that I wanted to make.
If what has appeared is correct, as Mr. Yechury rightly pointed out, it is a commission of an offence in India. Diplomatic immunity may be available to American diplomats but the diplomatic immunity available to a US diplomat can certainly not be claimed by the Government of India for the benefit of those Indians, who have committed an offence in India. It is an offence committed in India. It is an offence of bribery committed by Indians in India. Where is the question of Finance Minister saying that I am claiming diplomatic immunity with regard to that correspondence? That correspondence, despite that immunity has already been published. So, there is no question of anyone claiming that immunity.
Secondly, Sir, it is very easy to say that the House, the 14th Lok Sabha was sovereign, and, it does not extend to the 15th Lok Sabha. All these factors do not apply when an offence of bribery is committed outside the House. That is the case. Now, outside the House, an offence of bribery has been committed. I am sorry. You are guilty of a cover up...
Why don’t you go to the court, and, file a Public Interest Litigation on the basis of this evidence?
Why don’t you do it?
You are guilty of continuing the cover up...
If it is an admissible evidence, then, why don’t you go to the court? If you have the courage, then, go to the court.
This undermines the very foundations of our Parliamentary democracy. Sir, what we are saying is that there was a Committee appointed by the 14th Lok Sabha. Sir, that Committee had recommended that appropriate agencies must investigate into this. What happened to that investigation? We are asking about that investigation. Sir, that Committee had recommended investigation. The point is that there was a Committee that recommended investigation and proper criminal investigation.
Now what is the Government doing about that?