The Rajya Sabha has a coherent system of committees. One of these committees is the Committees on Ethics. The Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha falls under the category of the Standing Committee. Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu wants to raise awareness about the Ethics Committee. Recently Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu reviewed the functioning of the Committee on Ethics. In this review, the Chairman came to know that the Committee on Ethics had returned 22 complaints received about 19 members of Rajya Sabha during the last 4 years without any investigation. These complaints were not made according to the prescribed procedure. According to the current rules, any person can complain in writing to the Ethics Committee or the officer authorized by the committee about the inappropriate behavior of the member of the House. Among these 19 members, a complaint was made against the two independent MPs besides the ruling party and the opposition. Out of these 22 complaints, 13 complaints were sent by the Department of Personnel and Training to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.
4 complaints, each from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Lok Sabha Secretariat, were sent to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat on the behalf of a Parliamentary Affairs Ministry.
Recommendation of formation of Ethics Committee-
After independence, our MPs and MLAs were very sensitive to their functioning and conduct. Most of the people of his generation have been involved in the freedom struggle. But in the following years, especially after the 70s, the trend of decline started. Things began to deteriorate after the rise of regional parties. Accordingly, in the Conference of Presiding Officers held in Delhi on 23-24 September 1992, it was recommended to set up Ethics Committees in both, Parliament and state legislatures.
The first Ethics Committee in India was constituted on 4 March 1997 by the then Chairman of Rajya Sabha K.K.R. Narayan, did it? Former Union Minister Shankar Rao Chauhan became its first president. This committee did a very important job. In its first report in 1998, the committee created a 14-point code for conduct for members, which includes members’ conduct towards the honor and credibility of Parliament.
The Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha has so far submitted 10 reports. Later, in the Lok Sabha also, the Committee of Ethics was formed on May 16, 2000, during the 13th Lok Sabha, and the first Speaker who became Prime Minister Chandrashekhar. Later LK Advani and Manikrao Gavit also chaired the committee. On the recommendation of this committee, the membership of many MPs went even further.
Difference between the Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha-
In both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, there is a rule for the formation of the Committee of Ethics. While the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha is permanent, the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha is an ad hoc committee. The first Ethics Committee in the Lok Sabha was formed on 16 May 2000. As the Rajya Sabha, the function of the Committee of the Lok Sabha is to monitor the moral and ethical behavior of the members, to investigate every kind of complaint in relation to the immoral behavior of the member or related to its parliamentary behavior and to make suitable recommendations. I also made rules that clarify what are unethical practices.
While the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha consists of 10 members, the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha consists of 15 members and their tenure is only one year. The members of the Committee on Ethics are appointed by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. This committee will hear complaints regarding immoral conduct committed by a member during the proceedings of the Lok Sabha, which has been taken into consideration by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The committee conducts a preliminary inquiry on any complaint and presents its recommendations to the Speaker of Lok Sabha as a report. Later, the Speaker presents it for discussion and resolution before the House. The role of the Committee on Ethics is very important in the dignified conduct of the Rajya Sabha. The committee has been working effectively since its formation.
Committee on Ethics in Legislative Assemblies-
There are few elected legislatures in the country where the committees of ethics remain and they are effective. A code of conduct has also been made for legislators and they are also being implemented to an extent. The first Ethics Committee was formed in the states in Chhattisgarh and later on August 20, 2010, in Bihar Legislative Council, the first Ethics Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Nitish Kumar. The committee laid the first report in the House on December 19, 2014, which included the rules to be followed during the members’ entry into the Legislature premises, study tours within the House, outside and talks in delegations. The Legislative Assembly formed a 19-member Ethics Committee in 2016 to monitor the conduct of Maharashtra legislators inside and outside the house.
In recent years, due to the improper conduct of many MPs and MLAs, there has been a concern among the Presiding Officers about the falling credibility.
Work and importance-
It is the responsibility of every member of Parliament to maintain the prestige and dignity of Parliament. Rules of the Committee of Ethics were incorporated in 2004 to make the process and functioning of the Rajya Sabha effective. In the rules related to the procedure and conduct of business in Rajya Sabha, there is a provision to set up a committee of conduct under Rule 286. According to Rule 287, the Chairman shall, from time to time, direct the name of the Committee on Ethics consisting of 10 members. According to its sub-rule 1, the committee will continue to function until a new committee is formed. Members will choose the chairman for the vacant seat in the committee. According to Rule 288, the chairman of the committee will appoint the chairman only among the members of Rajya Sabha. If the chairman is ever absent, the committee will elect another member to act as chairman. At the same time, the attendance of at least five members is necessary to conduct the work in the committee. Since the formation of the Committee of Ethics of the Rajya Sabha, the scope of this committee has become quite wide.
Code of Conduct Rule 290-
The responsibility is given under Rule 290 of the Code of Conduct –
- Monitoring the conduct of members.
- Prepare a code of conduct for members
- Amending this Code from time to time through submission of the report to Rajya Sabha
- Suggesting additions to some responsibility about the Committee on Ethics
- Investigating cases related to alleged code of conduct violations by members
The Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha is also serious about complaints related to the behavior of MPs. For this –
1. To investigate the matters relating to the charge leveled against any other moral misconduct on the responsible member of the committee
- Advising members on receiving questions automatically or in relation to ethical level questions.
- The committee is empowered to condemn, suspend the Rajya Sabha for a certain period of time if it proves to be unethical behavior or other misconduct or violation of the Code of Conduct rules.
- The committee has the power to take disciplinary action if the complaint is proved true.
Rule of Conduct Committee 291-
- It also has the power to take evidence or take letters or ask for documents. But if the evidence document sought by the committee is not relevant, then the issue will go before the chairman and his decision will be final.
- 2. It will be up to the discretion of the committee whether or not to treat any evidence, oral or documentary evidence as secret or confidential.
Complaint Procedure – Rule 295
In the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha, a detailed provision has been made for the process of making a complaint. Under Rule 295, any person can complain to the Ethics Committee for the alleged immoral behavior of a member or violation of the code of conduct or alleged misinformation of the interests of a member. Along with this, the committee can also take up any matter by self-motivation. Members can also refer any matter to the committee. Any complaint can be made in writing to the committee or any officer authorized by it. The complaint must be in the restrained language and limited to facts. The person making a complaint before the committee has to reveal his identity and to prove his allegations, supporting documents or other evidence has to be submitted. The committee does not disclose the name of the complainant upon request. Although there are some conditions for filing a complaint. Complaints filed only on the basis of unproven media reports are not believed. Apart from this, the committee does not consider any such case which is pending before the court.
At the same time, in Rule 296, the process of investigating the cases before the committee has been mentioned. Under this, if satisfied that the complaint is in proper form and the matter is under its jurisdiction, then it can take the case for preliminary investigation. After a preliminary investigation, if the committee feels that no case is made prima facie, then the case can be dropped. Apart from this, if it is found that a complaint is false or malicious, then the case can be taken as a violation of parliamentary privilege. If the committee feels that the prima facie case is made, then the matter will be considered for investigation and report by the committee. The committee has the right to decide from time to time the rules to give effect to its order. Committee meetings are usually held in a closed room.
There is also a provision for punishment for being found in violation of rules or indulging in unethical conduct in the investigation of the Ethics Committee.
According to Rule 297, whenever it is found that a member has committed any immoral conduct or other malicious act or has violated the rules, the committee may recommend one or more penalties. These punishments include condemnation, suspension from the House for a set time and other punishments set by the committee.
Under 298, the report of the committee can be presented in the meeting by the chairman of the committee or any member in his absence.
Rules 299 and 301-
Whereas the report is considered under Rule 299 and after accepting the proposal for consideration of the report under Rule 301, the chairman or member of the committee may propose that they agree or disagree with the amendments, recommendations.
Rules 302 and 303-
Under Rule 302, the Chairman may issue directions for regulating the procedure relating to the investigation of cases of immoral or misconduct of members of the Committee of the House. Along with this, according to Rule 303, the chairman has the right to send questions of moral and other misconduct to the committee.
Who gets the punishment through the Ethics Committee and when?
There have been many such cases in parliamentary history when the Committee on Ethics decided to expel the MPs. In 1951, HD Mudgal was expelled from the Lok Sabha for taking money to take sides in Parliament. Subramanian Swamy was expelled from the Rajya Sabha in 1976 when a committee of the House found his conduct, not in line with the dignity of the House. Also, in November 1977, Indira Gandhi was expelled from the Lok Sabha for creating obstruction, intimidation and filing false cases against the officials gathering information to answer certain questions in the House. However, his expulsion was repealed in December 1978 by bringing a motion in the House. In December 2005, MPs were relied upon to ask questions with money. In the year 2016, the Committee on Ethics of Rajya Sabha decided to expel industrialist Vijay Mallya.
The Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha not only investigates the conduct of MPs, unethical behavior and violation of rules but also works to raise public awareness about its functioning so as to make the functioning of Rajya Sabha more effective.