Ethics Committee of Parliament


The Ethics Committee of the LokSabha has summoned Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on October 31 to defend her self against cash-for-query charges levelled against her by BJP Member.

Committee on Ethics in Parliament:

The Committee on Ethics in the Indian Parliament is a parliamentary committee responsible for examining and addressing ethical and behavioural issues related to Members of Parliament (MPs).

There are separate Committee on Ethics for both the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), the two houses of the Indian Parliament.

The primary functions and responsibilities of these committees include:

  1. Investigating Complaints: The Committee on Ethics is tasked with examining and investigating complaints or allegations of ethical misconduct or violations of the Code of Conduct by MPs. These complaints can come from various sources, including fellow MPs, members of the public, and media reports.
  2. Adhering to the Code of Conduct: MPs in India are expected to adhere to a Code of Conduct, which outlines the expected ethical standards and behavioral norms for parliamentarians. The Committee on Ethics ensures that MPs are following this code.
  3. Maintaining Standards: The committee aims to uphold high ethical and professional standards for MPs. It plays a role in ensuring that the behavior of parliamentarians is consistent with the values and expectations associated with their position as elected representatives.
  4. Inquiry and Recommendations: After conducting an inquiry into a complaint or ethical violation, the Committee on Ethics can recommend appropriate action, sanctions, or corrective measures to be taken against the concerned MP. These recommendations may include reprimand, suspension, or expulsion from Parliament.
  5. Educational Initiatives: The committee may also be involved in organizing educational initiatives and workshops to familiarize MPs with the Code of Conduct and ethical standards they are expected to uphold.
  6. Confidentiality: To protect the rights and privacy of the individuals involved, the committee operates confidentially when conducting inquiries and investigations.

The Committee on Ethics in the Indian Parliament is an important body for maintaining the integrity of the parliamentary system and ensuring that MPs are held accountable for their ethical conduct.

It helps to safeguard the reputation of Parliament and maintains public trust in the institution.

It's worth noting that similar committees exist in the upper and lower houses of the Parliament, reflecting the bicameral nature of India's legislative system.

Significance of ethics committee

The Committee on Ethics in the Indian Parliament plays a significant role in upholding the ethical standards, integrity, and accountability of Members of Parliament (MPs). Its importance lies in several key aspects:

  1. Maintaining Ethical Conduct: The primary role of the Committee on Ethics is to ensure that MPs adhere to the ethical standards and values expected of elected representatives. This helps maintain the integrity of the parliamentary system and ensures that MPs conduct themselves with professionalism and moral rectitude.
  2. Accountability: The committee holds MPs accountable for their actions and conduct. It provides a mechanism for addressing ethical complaints and concerns, allowing for a fair and impartial examination of alleged misconduct.
  3. Public Trust: The existence of an ethics committee helps build and maintain public trust in the parliamentary process. It demonstrates that the Parliament takes ethical matters seriously and is committed to addressing any violations of its Code of Conduct.
  4. Conflict of Interest: The committee plays a crucial role in addressing conflicts of interest among MPs. It ensures that MPs do not misuse their positions for personal gain and that they act in the best interests of the public they represent.
  5. Disciplinary Actions: In cases of ethical violations, the committee can recommend disciplinary actions, such as reprimand, suspension, or expulsion from Parliament. This serves as a deterrent to unethical behaviour among MPs.
  6. Code of Conduct: The committee helps in upholding and enforcing the Code of Conduct for MPs. This code sets out the standards and expectations for MPs in their roles, and the committee ensures compliance.
  7. Transparency and Fairness: The committee conducts inquiries and investigations in a transparent and impartial manner. It ensures that due process is followed and that the rights of the individuals involved are respected.
  8. Public Awareness: The committee's activities, investigations, and recommendations are often reported in the media, increasing public awareness of ethical issues within Parliament. This, in turn, puts pressure on MPs to maintain high ethical standards.
  9. Correction and Improvement: By addressing ethical violations and providing recommendations for corrective actions, the committee encourages MPs to improve their behaviour and conduct. It helps maintain a culture of continuous improvement within Parliament.
  10. Preventing Ethical Erosion: The committee's presence acts as a safeguard against the gradual erosion of ethical standards within the parliamentary system. It serves as a reminder to MPs of their ethical obligations and responsibilities.

In summary, the Committee on Ethics in the Indian Parliament is significant as it helps maintain ethical conduct, upholds the reputation of the parliamentary system, and ensures accountability among MPs.

It contributes to the overall functioning and trustworthiness of the Indian Parliament as a key institution in the democratic governance of the country.

Members of the Ethics committee

The composition of the Ethics Committee in the Indian Parliament, both in the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), typically includes members from various political parties. The exact composition and number of members can vary, but here is a general overview of the typical composition:

  1. Chairperson: The committee is usually headed by a Member of Parliament (MP) who is appointed as the Chairperson. The Chairperson is often a senior MP with experience in parliamentary matters.
  2. Members: The committee typically includes several members, usually MPs, who are members of various political parties represented in the respective house. The number of members can vary and may be proportionate to the strength of each party in the house.
  3. Member of the Opposition: It is common practice to include a member from the opposition party as one of the members of the committee. This ensures a balanced representation and oversight.
  4. Experts: In some cases, the committee may include experts, such as legal professionals, ethicists, or individuals with experience in parliamentary procedures. These experts provide valuable input and guidance on ethical matters.
  5. Co-opted Members: The committee may also co-opt other members or individuals with relevant expertise for specific cases or investigations. This allows the committee to have a broader perspective and specialized knowledge when necessary.

The composition of the Ethics Committee is designed to be diverse and representative to ensure fair and impartial investigations into ethical matters involving MPs. The specific membership may change over time as per the rules and guidelines established by the Parliament and the committee itself.

Issues in Ethics Committee

The Committee on Ethics in the Indian Parliament, like any similar body, may face various challenges and issues in its functioning. Some of the common issues that can arise within ethics committees include:

  1. Political Influence: One of the primary challenges faced by ethics committees is political influence. MPs from the ruling party or influential political figures may attempt to influence the committee's decisions or investigations, which can compromise the impartiality of the committee's actions.
  2. Delay in Investigations: Investigations conducted by the committee can sometimes be delayed, allowing alleged ethical violations to go unaddressed for extended periods. Delays can result from various factors, including bureaucratic processes and resource constraints.
  3. Confidentiality Concerns: Balancing the need for transparency with the need to protect the privacy of individuals involved in investigations can be challenging. Maintaining confidentiality is essential to protect the rights of both complainants and MPs under scrutiny.
  4. Resource Constraints: Limited resources, both in terms of funding and staffing, can hinder the efficiency of ethics committees. This can result in slower investigations and a backlog of cases.
  5. Inadequate Punishments: Some critics argue that the punishments or sanctions recommended by ethics committees are not stringent enough to deter unethical behavior by MPs. Stricter penalties may be necessary to maintain the integrity of Parliament.
  6. Public Perceptions: Public perceptions of ethics committees can influence their effectiveness. If the public believes that the committee is not independent or is ineffective in addressing ethical issues, it can erode trust in the parliamentary system.
  7. Partisan Biases: There can be concerns that ethics committees may be influenced by partisan biases, either in their investigations or in the severity of recommended sanctions. This can lead to questions about the fairness of the committee's decisions.
  8. Complex Ethical Issues: Ethics committees may be confronted with complex and evolving ethical issues, especially in the context of modern politics, technology, and social norms. Keeping pace with these changes can be challenging.
  9. Lack of Transparency: The lack of transparency in the functioning of ethics committees can lead to suspicions of cover-ups or biased decisions. Transparency and public communication about the committee's activities are essential to build public trust.
  10. Low Public Awareness: In some cases, there may be low public awareness of the existence and role of ethics committees. Greater public awareness can lead to more active scrutiny and oversight of the committee's actions.
  11. Conflict of Interest Handling: The committee must effectively address conflicts of interest among its members when reviewing cases involving colleagues or individuals with whom committee members have personal or political connections.

Addressing these issues and challenges is essential to ensure that ethics committees in the Indian Parliament function effectively and maintain the highest ethical standards. It requires a commitment to transparency, independence, and the rule of law to ensure that ethical considerations are at the forefront of parliamentary conduct and decision-making.

Way ahead

The Committee on Ethics in the Indian Parliament plays a vital role in upholding ethical standards and ensuring the accountability of Members of Parliament (MPs). To strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of these committees, several steps and initiatives can be taken. Here are some ways ahead for the ethics committee in the Indian Parliament:

  1. Transparency and Accountability: Ensure that the ethics committee operates with the utmost transparency and accountability. Publish information on its activities, investigations, and outcomes to build public trust.
  2. Strengthening Independence: Uphold the independence of the ethics committee. Ensure that its members are not influenced by political pressures and that they can conduct investigations and make decisions impartially.
  3. Faster Investigations: Implement measures to expedite the investigation process. Delays can compromise the effectiveness of the committee. Streamlining procedures and providing adequate resources can help speed up investigations.
  4. Stricter Penalties: Consider whether the penalties and sanctions for ethical violations are sufficient. Evaluate whether stricter measures are needed to deter unethical behavior among MPs.
  5. Education and Training: Provide regular training and educational programs for MPs to make them aware of the Code of Conduct and ethical standards they are expected to uphold.
  6. Whistleblower Protection: Establish mechanisms to protect whistleblowers who come forward with complaints or evidence of ethical misconduct. This protection can encourage individuals to report unethical behavior without fear of reprisal.
  7. Clear Guidelines: Develop and maintain clear guidelines for the functioning of the ethics committee. Ensure that these guidelines are accessible to MPs and the public.
  8. Awareness Campaigns: Conduct public awareness campaigns to inform citizens about the role and importance of the ethics committee. Public engagement can help hold MPs accountable and raise expectations for ethical conduct.
  9. Modernization: Embrace technology and modernize the processes of the ethics committee. Electronic records, online complaint filing, and digital communication can improve efficiency and accessibility.
  10. Diverse Representation: Ensure that the committee reflects a diverse and balanced composition of members, including individuals with legal, ethical, and professional expertise.
  11. Community Engagement: Involve the community in the work of the ethics committee, especially in cases that impact the public. Solicit public input and feedback on ethical issues related to parliamentary conduct.
  12. International Best Practices: Study and adapt international best practices for ethics committees from other parliamentary systems. Learn from the experiences of countries with effective ethics oversight.
  13. Regular Review: Periodically review and assess the performance of the ethics committee. Conduct self-evaluations to identify areas for improvement.
  14. Media Engagement: Engage with the media to disseminate information about the committee's activities, decisions, and recommendations. Transparency and media coverage can help raise awareness.
  15. Legal Framework: Consider whether changes to the legal framework or parliamentary rules are necessary to enhance the powers and effectiveness of the ethics committee.

The way ahead for the ethics committee in the Indian Parliament involves a comprehensive approach that focuses on transparency, accountability, and a commitment to maintaining high ethical standards in parliamentary conduct. By addressing the challenges and taking steps to improve the committee's operations, its role in upholding ethical standards and public trust can be strengthened.

Posted by on 27th Oct 2023