Mahua Moitra: Indian opposition  MP appears before parliamentary panel over bribery charge

Mahua Moitra: Indian opposition  MP appears before parliamentary panel over bribery charge
Mahua Moitra: Indian opposition  MP appears before parliamentary panel over bribery charge

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW DELHI — Indian opposition MP Mahua Moitra is appearing before a parliamentary ethics panel for questioning over her alleged misconduct in parliament.

A fierce critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, Ms Moitra has been accused of asking questions in parliament in exchange for bribes.

An MP from the Trinamool Congress party (TMC) of West Bengal state, Ms Moitra strongly denies the allegations.

She has said she is willing to "face any kind of inquiry".

On Thursday, she appeared before an ethics committee of the Lok Sabha — the lower house of India's parliament — which started hearing the case last week.

Ms Moitra said she initially asked for time until Saturday citing prior engagements, but the committee "categorically denied" her request "and forced her to appear before it" on a date which clashed with her "constitutional commitments".

In a letter released on Wednesday, she also questioned whether the ethics committee was the appropriate forum to look into criminal allegations, saying "it does not have criminal jurisdiction and no mandate to investigate alleged criminality".

"This can only be done by law enforcement agencies," she added.

The proceedings against Ms Moitra started after a complaint by Nishikant Dubey, an MP from the government Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dubey has alleged that Ms Moitra asked several questions targeting the Adani group — a business conglomerate owned by Gautam Adani, who is perceived as being close to Modi — in exchange for gifts and cash from a rival businessman Darshan Hiranandani.

The Adani group's financial dealings came under scrutiny earlier this year after Hindenburg Research — a US-based short seller — accused it of "brazen" stock manipulation and accounting fraud. The Adani Group denied these allegations, calling the report "malicious".

In his complaint, Dubey claimed that "until quite recently", 50 of 61 questions Ms Moitra asked in the Lok Sabha were focused on the Adani group and accused her of accepting bribes adding up to 20m rupees ($240,542; £197,700) from Hiranandani.

The BJP leader alleged he had received "irrefutable evidence" against Ms Moitra from an advocate named Jai Anant Dehadrai — whom Ms Moitra has described as a "jilted ex".

On 19 October, Hiranandani also submitted an affidavit before the ethics committee, accusing the TMC leader of targeting Adani "for becoming famous".

Ms Moitra, who strongly denies every allegation, has questioned the authenticity of the affidavit. She has also filed defamation cases against Dubey and Dehadrai in the Delhi high court.

In her statement on Wednesday, she demanded that the parliamentary panel should allow her to cross-question Dehadrai and Hiranandani.

She said that neither of them "have given any documentary proof to back the allegations of bribery" against her and that any inquiry without giving her the chance to cross-question them would be "incomplete and unfair". — BBC


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