Mahua Moitra row: Lok Sabha underlines confidentiality of govt's replies to members

Mahua Moitra row: Lok Sabha underlines confidentiality of govt's replies to members

New Delhi, Nov 23 (PTI) The Lok Sabha secretariat has underscored the confidentiality of government's replies to MPs during the Question Hour in the House and asked them to access their portal only for their exclusive use, a development triggered by the raging 'cash-for-query' row involving TMC MP Mahua Moitra.

'It may be noted that since the replies are log-in and password protected on the Members' Portal, they are exclusively for the use of Members only,' the Lok Sabha secretariat said in its bulletin dated November 10, a day after the the House's Ethics Committee recommended Moitra's expulsion.

Members are, therefore, requested to maintain confidentiality of the replies and not to share the contents with others until the Question Hour is over, it added.

It informed MPs that the contents of reply made in response to a question is 'strictly confidential' until the question for oral answer has been asked and answered in the House.

In case a question could not come up for oral answer, the reply to the question should not be released till the conclusion of Question Hour, the Lok Sabha secretariat added.

'Questions included in the lists of written answers are also to be treated as confidential until the same have been laid on the Table of the House after the Question Hour is over,' it said.

Sources said the Lok Sabha has merely reiterated the same set of existing rules about confidentiality in the wake of the episode involving Moitra.

She was accused by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey of letting a Dubai-based businessman to access her parliamentary portal in lieu of bribes, and the Lok Sabha's Ethics Committee has recommended her expulsion.

She admitted to sharing her log-in credentials with businessman Darshan Hiranandani but has denied the bribery charges, dismissing her indictment by the parliamentary panel as a decision of a 'kangaroo court'.

Sharing the secretariat's bulletin on X, Dubey took a swipe at Moitra saying the 'corrupt MP was probably not informed of these rules by a PA like Hiranandani'.

He said sharing of replies before time can influence share market and compromise national security depending on their content.

Under a new initiative, the secretariat said replies to 'Starred Questions', a term for queries where ministers concerned answer to related supplementaries in the House, are being uploaded on members' portal by 9 am on the day of reply.

With Parliament's Winter Session scheduled to begin from December 4, members have begun putting in their questions.

The House is likely to take a decision on the Ethics Committee's recommendation for Moitra's expulsion during the session, with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) rallying around her after its initial 'wait and watch' approach.

Moitra was last week tasked with strengthening the party's organisation in Nadia district, in a clear message of support from the TMC.

TMC president and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday broke her silence over the issue and said that plans were in the works to expel her (Moitra) from Parliament but any such action would help the lawmaker from Krishnanagar ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

'Now, they are planning to expel Mahua (from Parliament). She will become more popular as a result. Whatever she used to say inside (Parliament), she will now say those things outside. Would anyone do something like this three months before the elections if he is not stupid?' Banerjee said, addressing a special session of the party in Kolkata.

Any such action would help the lawmaker from Krishnanagar ahead of the elections, she said. PTI KR KR KVK KVK

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