The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday moved a privilege notice against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, two days after her comments against a former chief justice of India in Lok Sabha, reported PTI. Moitra had on Monday questioned the sanctity of the judiciary while raising sexual harassment allegations against the former CJI.
Parliamentary privilege refers to the rights and immunities enjoyed by members of the two Houses. If proven, the punishment for this may be a warning or a prison term.
“While speaking on Motion of Thanks on President’s address, she [Moitra] has cast some aspersions with respect to the conduct of a judge,” BJP MP PP Chowdhary said in the Lower House. “So the question is whether the conduct of a judge can be discussed on the floor of the House or not.”
The BJP leader also referred to Article 121 of the Constitution to argue that no allegation can be levelled against a sitting or a retired judge. Another leader of the party, Nishikant Dubey, backed the motion and called for the cancellation of her parliament membership.
Article 121 of the Constitution states: “Restriction on discussion in Parliament...No discussions shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties expect upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the Judge as hereinafter provided...”
NK Premchandran, who was in the Chair, said that Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla was considering the privilege notice.
After the breach of privilege notice against Moitra, the Trinamool Congress MP tweeted: “You cannot bully me into silence with threats of privilege motions. You cannot abuse high office, retire, and then hide under cover of Article 121. Sexual harassment is not ‘discharge of duties’.”
In another tweet, she called for the withdrawal of the farm laws. “One has definitely done something right when entire might of government tries to divert attention from uncomfortable truths,” Moitra tweeted. “Please shower same attention to farmers at Delhi’s gates. REPEAL OR NOTHING.”
In a fiery speech, on Monday, 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”.
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”.