Lokpal asks CBI to probe cash-for-query allegation against TMC leader Mahua Moitra

Mahua Moitra
Mahua Moitra

New Delhi | Anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal on Tuesday directed the CBI to investigate the cash-for-query allegations against Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra and submit findings before it within six months, according to an order.

Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha in December last year for "unethical conduct" and has moved the Supreme Court challenging her expulsion. She has been renominated by the party as its candidate from the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal.

The Lokpal directive came while deciding a complaint by BJP Lok Sabha member Nishikant Dubey alleging that Moitra had asked questions in the Lok Sabha in exchange for cash and gifts from Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandani to mount an attack on industrialist Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others.

"After careful evaluation and consideration of the entire material on record, there remains no doubt regarding the fact that the allegations levelled against the RPS (Respondent Public Servant), most of which are supported by cogent evidence, are extremely serious in nature, especially in view of the position held by her," reads the Lokpal order.

It has referred to Moitra as the RPS in the order.

"Therefore, in our considered opinion, a deeper probe is required to establish the truth. This is vital in view of the position and status held by the RPS at the relevant point of time," said the order of the Lokpal bench comprising Justice Abhilasha Kumari (judicial member) and Members Archana Ramasundaram and Mahender Singh.

It said, whatever be the position held, a public servant is bound to exercise probity in the discharge of his or her duties.

"The responsibility and burden are heavier on the shoulders of a public representative. Corruption is a malaise that is adversely affecting the legislative, administrative, social and economic functioning of this democratic country," the order said.

"It is a duty cast upon us and, indeed, the mandate of the (Lokpal) Act, that all attempts be made to root out corruption and corrupt practises that bring under their fold aspects such as undue advantage, illegal gain or benefit and quid pro quo in the discharge of public duties," it said.

Accordingly, "we direct the CBI...to investigate all aspects of the allegations made in the complaint, and submit a copy of the investigation report within a period of six months from the date of receipt of this order", the order said.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will also file periodical reports regarding the status of the investigation every month, it added.

Dubey, who represents Jharkhand's Godda in the Lok Sabha, in a post on X shared excerpts from the Lokpal order and said Moitra "mortgaged" the country's security with Hiranandani for money.

"Satyamev Jayate. Today, considering my complaint as true, the Lokpal ordered the CBI to investigate against Mahua Moitra. That is, for a few rupees, the former Trinamool Congress MP indulged in corruption and mortgaged the country's security with Hiranandani," he said in his post in Hindi.

Dubey in his complaint said that he had received a letter dated October 14, 2023, from Supreme Court lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai alleging that "the RPS shared her Lok Sabha login credentials i.e. user identity and password of the Lok Sabha 'Member Portal' with Shri Darshan Hiranandani..." who in turn "posted questions in the name of the RPS in Parliament, while the RPS was travelling abroad".

It was alleged that Moitra received "Rs 2 crore in cash from Shri Darshan Hiranandani, in Indian and foreign currency, in lieu of asking questions in Parliament".

The complaint alleged that Moitra asked approximately 50 questions in Parliament pertaining directly to the business interests of Hiranandani and his company, and allegedly received Rs 75 lakh from him prior to the Lok Sabha elections that took place in 2019.

Hearing the complaint, a full bench of the Lokpal on November 8 last year had directed the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry and submit its report by December 22, 2023. Later, the CBI had requested for extension of time by three months for submission of the preliminary inquiry report.

The CBI submitted the report along with voluminous annexures, running into approximately 1,500 pages, the Lokpal order said.

It mentioned that the first allegation against Moitra of sharing her login credentials with Hiranandani "is prima facie substantiated".

The CBI's preliminary report, however, mentions that Dehadrai "could not provide any additional or corroborative details" regarding allegations against Moitra for taking Rs 2 crore bribe from Hiranandani in May 2021 and for allegedly getting Rs 75 lakh from the businessman prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

"The third and fourth allegations regarding the demand of the RPS for various logistic/travel expenses/ and gifts in India and abroad and the support received from Shri Darshan Hiranandani in the renovation of her official bungalow, have been substantiated as per the report of the CBI," the Lokpal order said.

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