NEW DELHI: The bribery charges against Trinamool Congress members would be probed by the Lok Sabha's Committee on Ethics, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan announced today, asserting that the "very serious" allegations impacted the "very credibility of Parliament".
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan made the announcement soon after the Question Hour, a day after BJP, Congress and CPI(M) came together in Parliament to attack the TMC members allegedly shown accepting bribe in a sting and demanded an inquiry.
"Certain acts of alleged unethical conduct on the part of some members of the House have been reported in the press and the matter was also raised by some members in the House yesterday.
"These allegations are very serious in nature and seek to impact upon the very credibility of parliamentarians and Parliament as an institution and therefore need to be examined," Mahajan observed as she asked the L K Advani-headed 15-member committee for "examination, investigation and report".
The Speaker's decision is reminiscent of a similar probe by a parliamentary committee in the Lok Sabha and the Ethics Committee probe in the Rajya Sabha in 2005 in the wake of the 'cash-for-query' scam, which had led to the termination of membership of 11 MPs -- 10 members from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha. Somnath Chatterjee was the then Speaker.
In the purported sting telecast a few days back, five TMC members from Lok Sabha -- Saugata Roy, Sultan Ahmad, Suvendu Adhikari, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Prasoon Banerjee, and Mukul Roy from the Rajya Sabha, were allegedly shown accepting money from fictitious officials of a firm.
Members, including those from the TMC, heard in pin-drop silence as Mahajan made the announcement.
"Keeping in view the extreme gravity of the matter, I have in exercise of my powers under the provisions of Rule 233B of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha decided to refer the matter to the Committee on Ethics for examination, investigate and report," she said.
However, Saugata Roy later strongly protested the decision, saying it was "unilateral and one-sided".
If it becomes a practice, then anybody will do a sting against members and inquiry would be ordered on such "unverified" contents, he contended.
The sting relates to April 2014, he argued and suggested that it dates prior to the constitution of this Lok Sabha.
The Speaker, however, brushed aside his objections, saying such a probe by a parliamentary committee had been ordered earlier too, an apparent reference to 'cash-for-query' scam.
The TMC member also said he had full respect for Advani and added that the veteran BJP member will be fair.
Government had yesterday made a pitch for an inquiry, saying either the Speaker can order it or the government can go for it.
The House had seen BJP, Congress and Left making a common cause to target the Trinamool Congress on the issue, even as Mamata Banerjee's party claimed that the charges were a political conspiracy ahead of the West Bengal assembly polls.