Justice Markandey Katju: TMC MP Mahua Moitra’s case becomes curiouser and curiouser

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

A BJP member of the Indian Parliament, Nishikant Dubey, has written a letter to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (India’s lower House of Parliament) alleging that Mahua Moitra, an MP belonging to the West Bengal based TMC, received bribes (money and gifts) from the Hiranandani business group for asking questions about the rival Adani business group in the Lok Sabha.

Dubey has asked the Speaker, Om Birla, to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee of the House, and demanded that Moitra be suspended 

Since long Moitra has been articulate in Parliament, and has been screaming and shouting in the House, assuming a high moral ground, but now for the first time she is at the receiving end.

Dubey’s allegations against Moitra are based on information received from a lawyer, Jai Anant Dehadrai, who was known to be once close to Moitra, but later fell out with her. Moitra has denied the allegations, and sent legal notices to Dubey, Dehadrai and the media houses / journalists which published the news, alleging she has been defamed.

Now there can be no objection to a member of Parliament raising questions in the House about alleged wrongdoings by businessmen. However, it is a different matter if this done as a quid pro quo.

It is alleged that the Hiranandani group has been aggressively lobbying for data localisation, and its rival in this sector is Adani. It is further alleged that this was the real reason why Mahua Moitra has been continuously attacking the Adani group. 50 of her 62 recent questions in the Lok Sabha were aimed at Adani.

The Union IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has said that her language in the House was almost identical to that of Hiranandani.

I am not going into the question whether the allegations against Moitra are true or not, as that needs further investigation. Instead, I am going into a broader issue, and that is, why Parliaments were created. In feudal times, there were no Parliaments, and the King was supreme, though he had many advisers. Parliament is a political body representing the industrialist class, which arose following the demise of feudalism.

It has two roles (1) creating an illusion among the people that they are the masters and rulers, whereas the truth is that the real rulers are the big business class, and (2) resolving conflicts of interest among the big business class.

As regards the second role, of course there is the judiciary where legal disputes among businessmen can be fought out. However, there are disputes which cannot be resolved legally, e.g. formulating economic policies, and these can only be fought out in the political arena, such as in Parliament.

Many (if not most) MPs get associated with some big business house, from whom they get money and gifts in return for serving their interests. After all, a lot of money is required to be in politics (some estimate ₹10-20 crore is needed to contest a Lok Sabha election in India), and a lot of money is also required for other purposes e.g. maintaining a large group of followers and retainers.

One of the ways these MPs serve the interests of their business benefactors is by attacking the latter’s rival businessmen on the floor of the House. This practice is known to be widespread, not only in India but also in other democratic countries in the world.

So even if what Mahua Moitra did was for money and gifts, she is in illustrious company. Perhaps if the other MPs in India are also investigated skeletons may be found in their cupboards too.

So the Speaker Mr Birla would be well advised to let sleeping dogs lie. After all, some skeletons may emerge from his cupboard too.

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