systemhalted by Palak Mathur

Cash-for-vote Scandal and Case of H G Mudgal, 1951 - Waiting for Parliament to take action!!

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:

  1. The house took action against a member whose conduct was disparaging to the dignity of the house.
  2. 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."

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