Ethics Committee vs Privileges Committee


09:14 AM

1 min read
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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • About the Ethics Committee
  • Ethics Committee vs Privileges Committee
  • News Summary Regarding Cash-for-Query (Mahua Moitra) Case

Why in News?

  • The Lok Sabha Ethics Committee’s report recommending the expulsion of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP (Mahua Moitra) will now go to the Lok Sabha Speaker.
  • A complaint by a BJP MP that the TMC MP sought favours from a businessman to ask questions against industrialist Gautam Adani sparked a chain of events leading to the report, which was adopted by six votes to four recently.

About the Ethics Committee

  • Objective: It oversees the moral and ethical conduct of members and examines cases of misconduct referred to it.
  • History:
    • A Presiding Officers’ Conference held in Delhi in 1996 first mooted the idea of ethics panels for the two Houses.
    • Then Vice President (and Rajya Sabha Chairman) K R Narayanan constituted the Ethics Committee of the Upper House in 1997.
    • In the case of Lok Sabha, a study group of the House Committee of Privileges recommended (in 1997) the constitution of an Ethics Committee, but it could not be taken up by Lok Sabha.
      • The Committee of Privileges finally recommended the constitution of an Ethics Committee during the 13th Lok Sabha.
      • The late Speaker, G M C Balayogi, constituted an ad hoc Ethics Committee in 2000, which became a permanent part of the House only in 2015.
  • Appointment of members in Lok Sabha: The members of the Ethics Committee are appointed by the Speaker for a period of one year.
    • The Committee is currently headed by the BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar.
  • Procedure for complaints
    • Any person can complain against a Member through another Lok Sabha MP, along with evidence of the alleged misconduct, and an affidavit stating that the complaint is not “false, frivolous, or vexatious”.
    • If the Member himself complains, the affidavit is not needed.
    • The Speaker can refer to the Committee any complaint against an MP.
    • The Committee does not entertain complaints based only on media reports or on matters that are sub-judice.
    • The Committee makes a prima facie inquiry before deciding to examine a complaint. It makes its recommendations after evaluating the complaint.
    • The Committee presents its report to the Speaker, who asks the House if the report should be taken up for consideration. There is also a provision for a half-hour discussion on the report.

Ethics Committee vs Privileges Committee

  • The work of the Ethics Committee and the Privileges Committee often overlap.
    • The Rules (for example, the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha) applicable to the Committee of Privileges also apply to the ethics panel.
  • 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”.
    • These privileges are enjoyed by individual Members as well as the House as a whole.
    • An MP can be examined for breach of privilege; a non-MP too can be accused of breach of privilege for actions that attack the authority and dignity of the House.
  • The Ethics Committee can take up only cases of misconduct that involve MPs.

News Summary Regarding Cash-for-Query (Mahua Moitra) Case

  • Prejudiced and incorrect, say opposition MPs:
    • The 4 opposition members on the panel said the report recommending Moitra's expulsion was 'prejudiced and incorrect.'
    • The opposition MPs accused the Ethics Committee chairman and BJP members of leaking the proceedings of the panel in violation of rules.
  • What happens next?
    • According to former Lok Sabha Secretary General P. D. T. Achary, speaker now has the authority to decide whether to make the report public.
    • In the upcoming session of Parliament, the committee's chairperson will present the report in the House.
    • Following that, there will be a debate on the matter, culminating in a vote on a government motion for the member's expulsion.
    • This could mark a potentially historic moment as the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee might be recommending the expulsion of a MP for the very first time.
      • Back in 2005, 11 MPs faced expulsion from Parliament in a different 'cash-for-query' case.
      • However, it's worth noting that those expulsions were proposed by the Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee and a Lok Sabha Inquiry Committee.

Q1) What is the importance of parliamentary committees?

Parliament deliberates on matters that are complex, and therefore needs technical expertise to understand such matters better. Committees help with this by providing a forum where Members can engage with domain experts during the course of their study.

Q2) What is Article 105 of the Constitution of India?

Article 105 in the Constitution of India describes powers, privileges, etc., of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof.

Source: Cash-for-query case: Ethics panel adopts report on Mahua Moitra, recommends expulsion of TMC member from Lok Sabha | IE