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Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha

Set up more than 20 years ago, the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha has a crucial responsibility of monitoring the behaviour of its members while dealing with instances of unethical conduct.

Its importance in upholding ethical standards in Parliament cannot be overstated, even though it typically deals with relatively minor offences.

One lady Lok Sabha member, against whom a complaint has been filed with the Lok Sabha speaker vis-�-vis unethical practices by another MP of Lok Sabha, was scheduled to attend the scrutiny of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee during their last convened meeting on July 27, 2023. The panel, established over 20 years ago, has heard numerous complaints, though the majority have been for minor offences.

The individuals who make up the Ethics Committee are chosen by the Speaker for a duration of one year. One of the current members and head of the Ethics Committee is Shri Vinod Kumar Sonkar, who represents the BJP's Kaushambi parliamentary constituency, alongside Shri Sumedhanand Saraswati, Shri Vishnu Datt Sharma, Smt. Sunita Duggal, Smt. Aparajita Sarangi, Dr Rajdeep Roy, and Dr Subhash Bhamre, all of whom are also from the BJP. In addition, there are members from various political parties including Shri Ve Vaithilingam, Smt. Preneet Kaur, and Shri N Uttam Kumar Reddy from Congress, Shri Balashowry Vallabbhaneni from YSR Congress, Shri Hemant Godse from Shiv Sena, Shri Giridhari Yadav from JD-U, Shri P R Natarajan from CPI-M, and Shri Kunwar Danish Ali from BSP.

History of Ethics Committees
In 1996, during a conference for Presiding Officers in Delhi, the idea of ethics committee for both Houses was first suggested.

Months after its conception on March 4, 1997, the official inauguration of the Ethics Committee for the Upper House occurred in May. Concurrently serving as Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President at the time, Shri K R Narayanan initiated the creation of this committee. Its objective was to ensure the ethical conduct of members and scrutinize reported instances of impropriety that emerged. The same regulations that govern the Committee of Privileges are likewise applicable to the Ethics Committee.

After visiting the UK, US, and Australia in 1997 to study ethical practices among legislators, Lok Sabha's House Committee of Privileges suggested an Ethics Committee, but it was not implemented.

Only in 2015 did an ad hoc Ethics Committee, constituted by former Speaker Shri G M C Balayogi back in 2000, finally became a permanent fixture of the Lower House upon recommendation from the Committee of Privileges during the 13th Lok Sabha. In 2000, then Speaker of the Lok Sabha Shri G M C Balayogi put together a makeshift Ethics Committee that was officially made a part of the House in 2015.

Similar allegations in 2005
In 2005, rumours swirled about MPs engaging in underhanded conduct by taking bribes for questions in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The outrage resulted in a vote that removed 11 MPs from their seats across both houses, leaving one vacancy in Rajya Sabha and ten in Lok Sabha. An investigation into the scandal was led by Shri P K Bansal, a MP from Chandigarh, who presided over a specialized Lok Sabha committee.

The committee ultimately suggested an expulsion motion to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, which was later ratified through parliamentary voting. The Rajya Sabha's House Ethics Committee that was responsible for looking into the complaint against the Rajya Sabha member, also recommended expulsion of its accused member and the same got approval of the Rajya Sabha after voting.

The BJP insisted on sending the Bansal Committee's report to the Privileges Committee to safeguard their members, in order to give the six MPs in question a chance to defend themselves.

Shri P D T Achary, who formerly served as the Secretary General of Lok Sabha, pointed out that the 2005 case was backed by a significant amount of evidence gained through a sting operation. However, a major hurdle in the current case would involve connecting the questions posed by the accused MP to a money trail.

Procedure for Complaints
Should anyone desire to file a grievance against a Lok Sabha MP, they may do so through another MP, and must include proof of the alleged misconduct, as well as an affidavit attesting that the accusation is not a fabrication, fanciful, or vexatious. In the event that the MP themselves chooses to file a complaint, the affidavit is not necessary. Any complaint levelled against MPs are referred to the Ethics Committee by the Speaker.

The Committee is selective in the grievances it considers, rejecting those based solely on media accounts or ongoing legal proceedings. The Committee conducts a preliminary investigation before resolving whether or not to further investigate the complaint, eventually issuing its findings after a full evaluation of the situation.

The Speaker receives the Committee's report and consults with the House regarding its consideration. A brief 30-minute debate on the report may also take place. Misconduct allegations that implicate Members of Parliament fall exclusively within the purview of the Ethics Committee.

What Action Can Be Recommended by Ethics Committee?
The code of conduct and ethical norms that Parliament expects of MPs is examined by the Ethics Committee of India's Lok Sabha, the lower house. The committee is responsible for making suggestions regarding ethical behaviour and scrutinizing MP conduct. In situations where conduct violations are found, the group can investigate and suggest punishments.

Including a range of potential actions, the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha is able to make recommendations such as:
  • Admonition: For a member's improper conduct or breach of ethics, the Ethics Committee has the right to issue a warning or admonishment, encouraging them to amend their actions.
  • Suspension: Recommendations for the suspension of a Lok Sabha member for a certain time period due to serious misconduct are subject to the Lok Sabha's approval.
  • Expulsion: The Lok Sabha has the power to expel a member in instances of severe misbehaviour, following the committee's recommendation. This course of action needs the Lok Sabha's approval as well.
The Lok Sabha usually gives substantial weight to the Ethics Committee's recommendations on disciplinary action, although it's worth noting that such suggestions are not legally binding. To enforce penalties such as expulsion or suspension, the Lok Sabha must ultimately pass a resolution with a majority vote.

The parliamentary system's integrity must be upheld by adhering to ethical standards, which depend on the nature of the alleged misconduct and the Ethics Committee's recommendations. The gravity of disciplinary measures is also tied to these specific actions.

Can action taken by Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha be challenged in Court?
The disciplinary measures recommended by the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha against a member are considered as part of the Parliament's internal procedures, subject to parliamentary privilege. Within legislative bodies, parliamentary privilege provides legal immunities and protection for proceedings.

It is generally accepted that the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches means that courts do not typically review the Ethics Committee's decisions and recommendations. Infringing on the legislature's internal disciplinary procedures is not something that courts usually do.

Amidst all of the rules and regulations, there are occasional exceptions. In order to protect the Constitution and essential liberties, it is crucial to remain steadfast. If Parliament or the Ethics Committee exceeds their jurisdiction, the justice system can step in. Should a politician's freedom of expression or other fundamental rights be infringed upon through disciplinary sanctions, they can turn to the court system for potential recourse.

The Constitution and rule of law must align with the actions of the Ethics Committee or Parliament, else courts may intervene. Remedies can be issued when constitutional rights or principles are infringed upon.

Relatively rare, legal challenges to parliamentary decisions are a complex matter that require specific legal and constitutional considerations. It's important to exhaust all other means of redress within the parliamentary system before turning to this last resort.

In court, challenging a decision is feasible only on limited grounds such as claiming a denial of natural justice, gross illegality or unconstitutionality.

A writ petition filed in the High Court may be a member's best option if the matter in question focuses mainly on state-level affairs or the actions of the state legislature.

Fundamental rights violated on a national level can warrant a direct writ petition to the Supreme Court.

Although its establishment is recent and historically ad hoc, the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee stands as a crucial player in maintaining the ethical conduct of India's parliamentary members. As a watchdog of parliamentary ethics, it enforces rigidly high moral standards among its legislating members. Despite often being overlooked, the Committee's work is essential in preserving the Lok Sabha's integrity.


Written By: Md.Imran Wahab
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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