Many of my friends might not know about the case of H G Mudgal. So, let us first focus on it. This case exemplifies the serious concern shown by the Parliament of India in the year 1951 about the misconduct of a member. The Constitution of India came into force in 1950. Therefore, Parliament can be termed as in nascent stage of its development. Thus, this case becomes more important to note because it illustrates how the members of an institute should work.
It was alleged that H.G. Mudgal from Bombay had received monetary benefits (bribe) in connection with his dealings with the Bullion Merchants Association. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted a thorough enquiry by Parliament. Other Members of Parliament raised the question whether the matter could not be sent to the Privileges Committee as an instance of breach of privilege of the House. Speaker Mavalankar said: “A Member may behave in a manner in which the House would not like him to behave and yet it may be argued that it is not a breach of privilege.” At his suggestion, Prime Minister Nehru, as the Leader of the House, moved a resolution for the appointment of an ad hoc committee to enquire into the allegation made against Mudgal. The committee found Mudgal guilty of receiving monetary benefits from the business association. The finding of the committee was that Mudgal’s conduct was
derogatory to the dignity of the House and inconsistent with the standards which Parliament was entitled to expect of its members.
On September 24, 1951, while moving the resolution for expelling Mudgal from the House, Jawaharlal Nehru said:
This case is as bad as it could well be. If we consider even such a case as a marginal case or as one where certain laxity might be shown, I think it will be unfortunate from a variety of points of view, more especially because, this being the first case of its kind coming before the House, if the House does not express its will in such matters in clear, unambiguous and forceful terms, then doubts may very well arise in public mind as to whether the House is very definite about such matters or not. Therefore, it has become a duty for us and an obligation to be clear, precise and definite. The facts are clear, precise and unambiguous. The decision of the House should also be clear and precise and unambiguous.
After participating in the discussion, Mudgal submitted his resignation before the House could vote on the resolution of expulsion.
The question posed was whether the House could expel a person who was no longer a Member of the House. Then the Prime Minister moved an amendment that the words “and resolves that Shri Mudgal be expelled from the House”, should be replaced by
and resolves that Shri Mudgal deserved expulsion from the House and further that the terms of the resignation letter he gave to the Deputy Speaker at the conclusion of his statement constitute a contempt of this House which only aggravate his offence.
Two things that are important and must be notice are:
- The house took action against a member whose conduct was disparaging to the dignity of the house.
- H G Mudgal belonged to Congress party and even then, the Prime Minister Nehru moved the resolution for his removal rising above the party lines.
Now, coming back to Cash-for-Vote scandal, I wish the present Parliament took the cognizance and move a resolution to refer the complaint to the Ethics Committee, inquire and punish those who are found guilty.
Ethics in governance is a topic that has been debated, researched and discussed since ages now. The rampant corruption acts as a roadblock to good governance thus making governance, as 2nd Administrative Reform Commission’s report on Ethics in Governance says, the weak link in our quest for prosperity and equity. Elimination of corruption is not only a moral imperative but also an economic necessity for a nation aspiring to catch up with the rest of the world.
To quote Era Sezhiyan, former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament,
The people look up to Parliament not only as an apex legislative body of the country for making laws and supervising the government, but to lead them in times of crisis. The crisis may be of a political, economic or moral nature. A political crisis may be controlled by consensus and compromise; a financial crisis may be resolved by strenuous work and shrewd rearrangement of priorities. But it will be very difficult to recover the dignity of the state and the confidence of the people when there is deep moral bankruptcy.
When the executive is corrupt, the people can correct it through the ballot and through a newly elected legislature. When the legislature is corrupt, it is the end of the state. In his The Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu asserted that the nation “will perish when the legislative power is more corrupt than the executive.”