An all party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to discuss the issues arising from the alleged involvement of MPs in human trafficking decided to set up a parliamentary committee to look into the cases of misdemeanour and misuse of facilities by members.
The panel is being set up in the backdrop of Lok Sabha member Babubhai Katara’s alleged involvement in a case of human trafficking and will take up for consideration all cases of misuse of facilities by MPs. This includes possible misuse of railway passes and official residences, complaints from spouses about ill-behaviour of members.
The committee will also go into the question whether members representing private banks, financial institutions or other businesses should be on the standing committee relating to their business interests since it amounts to a ``conflict of interest.’’
Emerging from an all-party meeting , Chatterjee said he was serious about taking action through an institutional arrangement rather than ad hoc measures. “All sections of members are seized about such matters and there is complete unanimity about the need to frame rules and guidelines to deal with such matters,’’ he said.
Quizzed on the composition of the committee, Chatterjee remarked: "The Speaker is not a robot. Give him a day.’’ He hoped the panel would come out with its decision on the issues emerging from the Katara case "as soon as possible.’’
Sources said the matter was not entrusted to the Ethics committee because its chairman Chandrashekhar was indisposed. The Privileges Committee, on its part, deals essentially with issues relating to privileges of MPs that flow from the Constitution, statutory provisions and conventions.
The diplomatic passport that a member gets is a facility extended to him by the Ministry of External Affairs and is not his privilege.
Reacting to a question, Chatterjee said Parliament does not have the authority to probe a criminal offense that involves misuse of passports.
He also said that Katara was already in judicial custody and was not attending the House. ``Unless the House decides to expel him, I cannot say anything,’’ he said in response to another query.
Among the leaders who attended the meeting included LK Advani and V K Malhotra (BJP), CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta and Parliamentary Affairs Minister P R Dasmunsi.