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Explainers

'Cash For Query' Allegation, Dog Custody: Why Is Mahua Moitra In The News?

Responding to the allegations made by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, Moitra said she “welcomes any move against her after the Lok Sabha Speaker is finished dealing with pending charges against him (Dubey)”.

By - Hera Rizwan | 20 Oct 2023 11:51 AM GMT

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has been in the headlines this week, after the BJP MP Nishikant Dubey demanded immediate suspension of Moitra, alleging that she "took bribes to ask questions" in parliament from businessman Darshan Hiranandani in order to target the Adani group and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The to-and-fro has been intensifying since, with senior BJP leaders terming it as a "severe blow to the dignity of Parliament" and Moitra asserting that the charges were based on a “jilted ex’s lies”.

BOOM elaborates on the developments that have occurred since the allegations came to the forefront, providing an overview on where things stand now.

What are the allegations against Moitra?

On October 15, Dubey wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla with allegations against Moitra. He claimed that Moitra had accepted bribes in exchange for raising questions in Parliament, purportedly to "protect the interest of a business group". He further asserted that advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai had provided compelling evidence of such bribery between Moitra and Darshan Hiranandani.

In addition, Dubey sent a letter to IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, urging an investigation into the IP addresses associated with Moitra's House login credentials.

The Hiranandani Group who had earlier said there is "no merit" in the allegations, have gone back on the statement with Darshan Hiranandani himself claiming in an affidavit to the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha that Moitra provided him her Parliament login and password so that he could “post the questions” directly “on her behalf when required”.

According to Dubey, this case against Moitra is reminiscent of ‘Cash for Query’ episode of December 12, 2005. The cash-for-query scam of 2005, referred to by Dubey, was a sting operation by online news site Cobrapost that showed 11 MPs accepting cash in exchange for raising questions in the Parliament. Out of the 11 MPs accused in the case, six were from the BJP, three from BSP, and one each from the RJD and Congress.

The Adani group also issued a statement, claiming that various individuals and groups are putting in extra effort and working overtime to damage its brand reputation. "In this particular case, the lawyer's complaint reveals that this arrangement to besmirch the reputation and interests of the Adani Group and our Chairman Mr. Gautam Adani has been in place since 2018," an Adani Group spokesperson said.

The conglomerate also noted that one of their strategies by these groups included releasing media reports with "an uncanny ability to appear just before the hearing dates of important cases in India's courts".

How has the TMC MP responded?

Responding to Dubey's allegations of "cash for query", Moitra said she “welcomes any move against her after the Lok Sabha Speaker is finished dealing with pending charges against him". 

Hitting back, Moitra said on X (formerly Twitter), "Multiple breach of privileges pending against fake degreewala & other BJP luminaries. Welcome any motions against me right after Speaker finishes dealing with those. Also waiting for ED & others to file FIR in Adani coal scam before coming to my doorstep.”

In response to Dubey's letter to Electronics and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, seeking an investigation to check if Moitra's Lok Sabha account was accessed from any location where she was not present, the TMC MP explained that parliamentary work of MPs is done by large teams of assistants and interns. She also added that the IT minister must release location and login details of all MPs, in that case.

Responding to the signed affidavit by Hiranandani that corroborated Dubey's claims, Moitra raised doubts about the authenticity of the document, citing the absence of official letterhead and notarisation. She implied that a prominent businessman like Hiranandani would unlikely sign such a crucial document on plain, unmarked paper without possible external pressure.

Furthermore, slamming the Adani group over their statement, Moitra posted a series of comments on X, asking if these were Mr. Adani's best efforts which comprises of falling back on "Fake Degree MP & a jilted ex’s lies". She added, "I won’t rest till the ED, CBI investigate and freeze Rs. 13,000 crore coal scam you have stolen from Indians. I’m told even Hon’ble Narendra Modi is sick of you & your frauds."

Who is this "jilted ex" often mentioned by Moitra?

The "jilted ex" referred to by Moitra here is Jai Anant Dehadrai who reportedly "shared irrefutable evidence of bribes exchanged" between her and Hiranandani, with Dubey. Dehadrai is the estranged partner of Moitra, who reportedly has a bitter fued running with the TMC MP over the custody of their pet Rottweiler, Henry. Moitra has sent legal notices to Dubey, Dehadrai and several media organisations for making defamatory allegations against her.

Moitra, in the last six months, had filed multiple police complaints against Dehadrai for alleged criminal trespass, theft, vulgar messages and abuse. Dehadrai is a litigator at Trial Courts, Delhi High Court, NCLAT and the Supreme Court of India with a specialisation in white-collar criminal matters, according to his LinkedIn page.

Soon after Moitra's complaint, Dehadrai went on X, seemingly taking a dig at her, and implied that there were efforts to pressure him into retracting the complaint, "in exchange of Henry". He added, "I flatly refused - will give details to CBI. Messenger is totally innocent - but tells you everything about her."

In a recent statement released by her, Moitra also raised doubts about the timing of the disclosures and inquired as to why if Dehadrai was aware of her wrongdoing, he delayed in bringing it to light. Moitra questioned why he singled out Dubey, whom she had already exposed and lodged pending privilege motions against, from among the 543 MPs.

What are the recent developments?

In an unexpected development, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan decided to no longer represent the TMC MP in her defamation case against BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai. This decision came amid concerns raised about a potential "conflict of interest".

According to reports, Dehadrai appeared in person in the court and stated that Sankaranarayanan had reached out to him, proposing a deal to withdraw his complaint in return for custody of the dog, Henry, which is a point of contention between him and Moitra.

Sankaranarayanan clarified that he had contacted Dehadrai with Moitra's approval. In response, the judge asked if that still makes Sankaranarayanan elligible to appear in the matter as he played the "the role of the mediator".

Accordingly, the lawyer withdrew from the case. The matter is now adjourned till October 31. If found guilty, Moitra could be arrested and expelled from Parliament. Currently the alleged charges against her include, 'Breach of Privilege', 'Contempt of the House' and a 'Criminal Offence' under Section 120-A of IPC. The said section deals with criminal conspiracy.