Ethics in politics

The context:

Recently the Lok Sabha Ethics committee has initiated investigation on a member of parliament. It has been alleged that MP has received money for putting question up in the parliament. The speaker in turn referred complaint to the Ethics committee for examination and report.

Lok Sabha’s Ethics committee: The ethics committee of Lok Sabha is relatively a new committee which was set in 2000, with the mandate to examine every complaint that related to unethical conduct of MPs. It was also tasked with the formulating the code of conduct for MPs.

However, the committee has not defined the term unethical behaviour anywhere. A couple of cases decided in the past certainly point to the type of conduct which can be called unethical. In one instance, an MP took his close female companion along with him on parliamentary tour personating her as his wife. The MP was guilty of unethical conduct, was suspended for 30 sittings.

Process of expulsion of MP:

If a MP takes money for putting questions up in the parliament, he will be guilty of breach of privileges and contempt of the house. Such complaints are invariably referred to the committee of privileges for investigation.

If a case of illegal gratification for conducting parliamentary work is proven, the may even be expelled from the house.

There have been such instances in the Lok Sabha when MPs were expelled from the house on this ground. For example, in 2005 a sting operation by a private channel showed 10 members of Lok Sabha accepting money for putting up the questions in the parliament.

Generally, the complaint of MPs accepting money for parliamentary work is referred to privilege committee or special committee appointed by the house.

Overlap with the privilege committee:

The work of ethics committee and privilege committee often overlaps. An allegation of corruption against MP can be sent to either body, but usually more serious accusations go to the privilege committee.

The mandate of privilege committee is to safeguard the freedom, authority and dignity of the parliament.

These privileges are enjoyed by the individual member as well as the house collectively. However, Ethics committee can take up the cases only of misconduct that involves MPs.

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