RS Ethics Panel dropped plaints against 19 MPs in 4 yrs

RS Ethics Panel dropped plaints against 19 MPs in 4 yrs

Sources said 22 complaints against 19 MPs --- both from the ruling and the Opposition benches as well as two independent members -- that made to the panel during the last four years were returned by the Committee without examining them since the complaints were not made in accordance with the prescribed procedure. Photo/PTI

Citing incomplete procedures, Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha declined to entertain complaints filed against 19 Rajya Sabha MPs from eight major parties, including the BJP and the Congress, prompting a missive from the Upper House to call for a re-examination of the existing rules regarding complaints against MPs.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu also asked officials to take measures to create awareness among public about the rules of the functioning of Ethics Committee as to how a complaint is to be made to the key Parliamentary panel.

Sources said 22 complaints against 19 MPs --- both from the ruling and the Opposition benches as well as two independent members -- that made to the panel during the last four years were returned by the Committee without examining them since the complaints were not made in accordance with the prescribed procedure. Some of them were not taken up for preliminary examination by the Ethics Committee as they were not directly addressed to the authorities mentioned.

Of these 22 complaints, 13 were referred to the Rajya Sabha secretariat by the Department of Personnel and Training, four each by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Lok Sabha secretariat, and one by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs as complainants had addressed their complaints to these bodies.

These findings came up during a review of the functioning of the Ethics committee carried out last by Naidu last week after which the RS secretariat has now forwarded a proposal to the Ethics Committee Chairman Prabhat Jha, a BJP MP, to re-examine the present rules regarding admission of complaints.

The Ethics Committee of both, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, oversees the conduct of the members and examines complaints of unethical conduct. Some of the key complaints before them have been against Rahul Gandhi by a BJP MP alleging the former’s British citizenship (in Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha in 2016) and liquor baron Vijay Mallya (in Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha, which recommended his expulsion in 2016).

The Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha in past has recommended expulsion of two members from the House for taking money for raising questions in the House and for misuse of MPLADS funds. Another member resigned from Rajya Sabha before the recommendation of the Committee was considered in the House.  

Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha has so far submitted 10 reports

Under Rule 295 of the ‘Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States’, any person can make a complaint of unethical conduct against a member of the House in writing either to the Ethics Committee or an officer authorized by the Committee.

The Committee can also take up such matters suo motu. Under Rule 296, Ethics Committee may take up the complaints for preliminary inquiry if it is made in proper form. Under Rule 303, Chairman of Rajya Sabha may refer any question involving unethical conduct and other misconduct of a member to the Committee for examination, investigation and report.

Rajya Sabha’s Ethics Committee was set up in 1997 to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of the members as internal self-regulatory mechanism after a report by N N Vohra Committee in 1995 that went into the issue of declining standards in public life. The report was then threadbare discussed in both the Houses of Parliament after which Ethics panel came into existence.  

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