Proceedings in the Lok Sabha descended into chaos on Monday after Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra brought up the sexual harassment allegations against a former chief justice of India, saying that the judiciary was no longer sacred.
In a fiery speech during the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Moitra lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for making “hate, pettiness and bigotry” a part of its narrative, in what she called a “truly fascist fashion”.
India’s tragedy today is not just that her government failed her, but that her other democratic pillars – the media and democracy – has failed her too, the TMC leader said.
“The sacred cow that was the judiciary is no longer sacred,” Moitra added. “It stopped being sacred the day a sitting chief justice of this country was accused of sexual harassment, presided over his own trial, cleared himself and then proceeded to accept a nomination to the Upper House of Parliament within three months of his retirement replete with Z plus security.”
Moitra added, “The judiciary stopped being sacred when it squandered the opportunity to guard the founding principles of the Constitution.”
In April 2019, a woman, who had earlier worked as a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court, alleged in an affidavit that former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and October 11, 2018. She had sent a complaint to 22 judges of the Supreme Court on April 19, 2019 and called for an inquiry into the actions of Gogoi, who she said not only harassed her, but was also responsible for her subsequent victimisation and that of her family.
Gogoi had denied the allegations during a special hearing he called on April 20, 2019. The ex-chief justice had said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations but claimed they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”.
Parliament treasury members vehemently opposed Moitra’s statements on Monday and accused her of violating parliamentary rules. The members said a person of high authority could not be discussed like this without a prior notice and approval of the chair.
Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal called Moitra’s comments against the former CJI “shameful”. TMC’s Saugata Roy, however, pointed out that Moitra had not named anyone and that the former chief justice having retired could not be called “high authority”, reported The Indian Express.
Revolutionary Socialist Party member NK Premachandran, who was in the Chair, allowed Moitra to finish her speech, but warned that her remarks will be expunged, if found objectionable.
Unidentified officials told News18 that the government is likely to move a breach of privilege motion against the Trinamool Congress MP over the speech. Officials said that despite the direction of the chair, Moitra continued to repeat her statements, in violation of Rule 356 of Parliament.
As per Article 121 of the Constitution of India, no Supreme Court or High Court judge who has discharged their duty or passed a judgement can be discussed in the Parliament. The Rules and Procedures 352(5) of Parliament also dictate that the conduct of people in constitutional positions cannot be questioned.
Moitra, however, remained defiant and said it would be her privilege if a breach of privilege motion is initiated against her “for speaking the truth during India’s darkest hour”.
Truth can never be expunged, the TMC leader added.
Government’s motto is ‘brutality over morality’
In her 20-minute speech, Moitra made several sharp attacks on the government, saying the ruling dispensation had turned propaganda and misinformation “into a cottage industry, whose biggest success is recasting of cowardice as courage”.
The Trinamool member also said the government had turned the Indian democracy into a police state, where “an eminent member of this House and a veteran journalist are charged with sedition” on the basis of a “single dubious complaint”.
She also mocked government’s dealing of farmers’ protests and said it established government’s motto of “brutality over morality”. “The courage to use the official channels of the Ministry of External Affairs to respond to social media posts by an 18-year-old climate activist and an American pop star,” Moitra added. Moitra was referring to the centre’s response to singer Rihanna and activist Greta Thunberg after they had tweeted in support of the ongoing farmers’ protests.
“When even not a single ministry has been deputed by the government to look for food, water and basic sanitation needs of the families that are camping at the borders of Delhi for almost 90 days. And the courage to bring in three farm laws when the entire Opposition and farmers across the country as well as the government’s oldest ally warned it was unacceptable. These laws were arrived at without consensus, tabled without scrutiny and rammed down this nation’s throat with brute force of the treasury benches. They have firmly established this government’s motto of brutality over morality.”— Mahua Moitra in Lok Sabha. [Source: The Indian Express]