Expulsion of Mahua Moitra
The decision of the house to expel Mohua Moitra by a legally untenable voice vote was based on the report of the Ethics Committee which recommended expulsion. The ethics committee had no conclusive evidence of a cash trail leading to Moitra, and asked the investigating agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate to unearth this trail. The sharing of password and login details to the parliamentary website did not violate any existing rule or law. The Committee vaguely surmised that this sharing of credentials compromised national security without providing any evidence. MahuaMoitra was not given a chance to cross-examine the complainant or the other witnesses. Without following due process, the committee went on to recommended expulsion in a decision in which six members voted for while four members submitted dissent notes.

It was this partisan report which formed the basis of the Lok Sabha deciding to expel Mahua Moitra. Most damningly, Mahua Moitra was given the serious punishment of expulsion without giving her a chance to respond or answer in her defence, in the Lok Sabha.

 Why is the Modi government so troubled by Mahua Moitra?

Mahua Moitra has been particularly tenacious in targeting someone she calls as Mr A and his group the ‘A company’, who travels with the ‘Prime Minister on delegations’ and ‘meets heads of state on visits to India’ and makes it appear that ‘India is the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister is him’ and ‘makes it appear to the world’ that he is the ‘remote control behind the Prime Minister’ and that ‘by obliging him, you oblige the Prime Minister’.
Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL
V Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL

Cash for Query
The Ethics Committee since its formation in 2000 had in the past never recommended expulsion of a parliamentarian. The Privileges Committee did it last time in 2005, only on finding a "smoking gun"–a video recording of the "cash-for-query" deal. This time, there's no such evidence. The privileges committee took such steps, including recommendation of 10 MPs in 2005 cash-for query scam.

So much so that the committee has (reportedly) recommended investigations by agencies to dig out any such evidence. Yet it has recommended expulsion by 6-4 voting on purely party lines!

Regardless of the brute majority that the ruling party is enjoying in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker may even disallow any debate/discussion on the issue and get the committee report adopted by just a voice vote! This would really be the height. Action paves the way for expulsion of any such inconvenient member in the future on any flimsy and fabricated ground, just on the strength of numerical majority.

The committee had on November 8 [or 9?] adopted a report recommending Mohua Moitra's expulsion from the lower House over 'cash-for-query' charges.
Sukla Sen

Crime & Conviction
Cases of crimes against people belonging to communities in the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) categories have risen progressively and steadily between the years 2018 and 2022, according to figures by the National Crime Records Bureau [NCRB].

These include crimes such as murder, assault on women, sexual harassment, stalking, kidnapping, and assault of children among others. NCRB—a government agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data — released its latest report on 4 December, 2023.

An analysis of this data between 2018 and 2022 revealed that even as cases of atrocities against SC, ST communities went up, the conviction and charge-sheeting rates remained abysmally low.

As per the 2022 numbers, Uttar Pradesh (UP) with 15,368 cases recorded the highest total cases of atrocities against people from the SC category. Rajasthan with 8,752 cases stood second, whereas Madhya Pradesh (MP) with 7,733 cases was on number three.

It must, however, be noted that the crime rate (crime per lakh population) in Rajasthan was 71.6 — more than double that of UP which recorded a crime rate of 37.2. At the same time, Rajasthan’s charge-sheeting rate was 45.9 percent, which means that a charge-sheet was filed in only 45.9 percent of recorded cases. In UP, charge-sheeting rate stood at 84.9 percent.

A comparison of conviction rate also showed that while Rajasthan saw only 39.5 percent convictions, in UP, the rate was 80.2 percent.

MP recorded a high crime rate (68.2) and high charge-sheeting rate (99.5 percent) but the conviction rate remained low (22.9 percent).

Most cases of atrocities against people belonging to the ST category were recorded in MP (2,979) followed by Rajasthan (2,521) and Odisha (773).
Himanshi Dahiya

Protest during COP28 Summit
About 25 activists took part in the protest, holding up pictures of Emirati prisoners Ahmed Mansoor and Mohamed al-Siddiq and Egyptian-British political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah.

Human Rights Watch described the protest as historic for taking place in the UAE, which tolerates little public dissent and bans organised groups such as political parties and labour union.

As a condition of hosting COP28, the UAE had agreed to allow protests to take place there under U.N. guidelines that require any demonstrations to be approved in advance and limited to the summit site.

Unlike at past U.N. climate talks that sparked huge protest rallies, including 2021's COP26 in Glasgow and 2015's COP21 in Paris, there have been no demonstrations outside the venue.

Siddiq was jailed in the UAE in 2013 along with 68 others on charges of plotting to overthrow the government after a trial that rights group Amnesty International described as grossly unfair.

An Emirati court sentenced Mansoor to 10 years in prison in 2018 after being charged with crimes including using social media to harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country's reputation.

Abdel Fattah, who has been repeatedly detained in Egypt since the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising, was most recently sentenced to five years in prison in 2021 on charges of spreading fake news.
 Angus McDowall, Reuters

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Vol 56, No. 27, Dec 31 2023 - Jan 6, 2024