The role of special inquiry committees of Parliament

The role of special inquiry committees of Parliament


The current scenario involves the Lok Sabha’s ethics committee reportedly suggesting the expulsion of Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra due to allegations of “unethical conduct” and breach of privileges.

  • Accusations claim she posed questions targeting a business entity under the influence of a businessman in exchange for cash and shared her login credentials with said businessman. Understanding the role of the ethics committee, its inception in 2000 aimed to monitor members’ moral conduct and address cases of ‘unethical conduct.’


GS-02 (Parliamentary Committees)

Mains Question:

Discuss the role and significance of parliamentary committees in ensuring the conduct of members. Illustrate this with recent instances, and analyze the constitutional aspects related to expulsion for certain members. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Ethics Committee’s Oversight
  • Unraveling ‘Unethical Conduct
  • Privileges Committee’s Role
  • Constitutional Grey Area

Ethics Committee’s Oversight:

  • The Ethics Committee, instituted in 2000, plays a crucial role in overseeing the moral conduct of members in the Lok Sabha.
  • Empowered to examine complaints filed by fellow members or outsiders, it functions as a watchdog for ethical breaches within parliamentary proceedings.

Unraveling ‘Unethical Conduct’:

  • The term ‘unethical’ remains undefined, granting the Ethics Committee the authority to determine the ethical nature of a member’s actions.
  • The committee’s role in conducting prima facie inquiries and presenting reports to the Speaker underscores its responsibility in unraveling instances of alleged ‘unethical conduct.’

Privileges Committee’s Role:

  • Parallel to the Ethics Committee, the Privileges Committee or Special Inquiry Committee addresses more serious accusations against members.
  • Historical cases, such as the ‘cash for query’ scandal in 2005, showcase the committee’s involvement in recommending expulsion for members found guilty of breaching privileges.

Constitutional Grey Area:

  • Examining the constitutional framework, Article 101 outlines grounds for vacating a seat, including voluntary resignation, disqualification, and prolonged absence. However, the Constitution doesn’t explicitly mention expulsion.
  • The Supreme Court’s conflicting judgments contribute to the constitutional ambiguity surrounding the expulsion of members.
  • The article scrutinizes the delicate balance between preserving the dignity and privileges of the House and ensuring democratic representation. It questions whether expulsion, as a response to ‘unethical conduct,’ may be viewed as a proportionate and justifiable punishment.

Way Forward:

The article advocates for a nuanced approach to maintain the balance between preserving parliamentary privileges and upholding democratic representation. It emphasizes the need for clarity and expedited legal processes to ensure justice and avoid protracted periods without representation.