Set up more than 20 years ago, the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha has a crucial
responsibility of monitoring the behaviour of its members while dealing with
instances of unethical conduct.
Its importance in upholding ethical standards in Parliament cannot be
overstated, even though it typically deals with relatively minor offences.
One lady Lok Sabha member, against whom a complaint has been filed with the Lok
Sabha speaker vis-�-vis unethical practices by another MP of Lok Sabha, was
scheduled to attend the scrutiny of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee during their
last convened meeting on July 27, 2023. The panel, established over 20 years
ago, has heard numerous complaints, though the majority have been for minor
The individuals who make up the Ethics Committee are chosen by the Speaker for a
duration of one year. One of the current members and head of the Ethics
Committee is Shri Vinod Kumar Sonkar, who represents the BJP's Kaushambi
parliamentary constituency, alongside Shri Sumedhanand Saraswati, Shri Vishnu
Datt Sharma, Smt. Sunita Duggal, Smt. Aparajita Sarangi, Dr Rajdeep Roy, and Dr
Subhash Bhamre, all of whom are also from the BJP. In addition, there are
members from various political parties including Shri Ve Vaithilingam, Smt.
Preneet Kaur, and Shri N Uttam Kumar Reddy from Congress, Shri Balashowry
Vallabbhaneni from YSR Congress, Shri Hemant Godse from Shiv Sena, Shri
Giridhari Yadav from JD-U, Shri P R Natarajan from CPI-M, and Shri Kunwar Danish
Ali from BSP.
History of Ethics Committees
In 1996, during a conference for Presiding Officers in Delhi, the idea of ethics
committee for both Houses was first suggested.
Months after its conception on March 4, 1997, the official inauguration of the
Ethics Committee for the Upper House occurred in May. Concurrently serving as
Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President at the time, Shri K R Narayanan
initiated the creation of this committee. Its objective was to ensure the
ethical conduct of members and scrutinize reported instances of impropriety that
emerged. The same regulations that govern the Committee of Privileges are
likewise applicable to the Ethics Committee.
After visiting the UK, US, and Australia in 1997 to study ethical practices
among legislators, Lok Sabha's House Committee of Privileges suggested an Ethics
Committee, but it was not implemented.
Only in 2015 did an ad hoc Ethics Committee, constituted by former Speaker Shri
G M C Balayogi back in 2000, finally became a permanent fixture of the Lower
House upon recommendation from the Committee of Privileges during the 13th Lok
Sabha. In 2000, then Speaker of the Lok Sabha Shri G M C Balayogi put together a
makeshift Ethics Committee that was officially made a part of the House in 2015.
Similar allegations in 2005
In 2005, rumours swirled about MPs engaging in underhanded conduct by taking
bribes for questions in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The outrage resulted in a
vote that removed 11 MPs from their seats across both houses, leaving one
vacancy in Rajya Sabha and ten in Lok Sabha. An investigation into the scandal
was led by Shri P K Bansal, a MP from Chandigarh, who presided over a
specialized Lok Sabha committee.
The committee ultimately suggested an expulsion motion to the Speaker of the Lok
Sabha, which was later ratified through parliamentary voting. The Rajya Sabha's
House Ethics Committee that was responsible for looking into the complaint
against the Rajya Sabha member, also recommended expulsion of its accused member
and the same got approval of the Rajya Sabha after voting.
The BJP insisted on sending the Bansal Committee's report to the Privileges
Committee to safeguard their members, in order to give the six MPs in question a
chance to defend themselves.
Shri P D T Achary, who formerly served as the Secretary General of Lok Sabha,
pointed out that the 2005 case was backed by a significant amount of evidence
gained through a sting operation. However, a major hurdle in the current case
would involve connecting the questions posed by the accused MP to a money trail.
Procedure for Complaints
Should anyone desire to file a grievance against a Lok Sabha MP, they may do so
through another MP, and must include proof of the alleged misconduct, as well as
an affidavit attesting that the accusation is not a fabrication, fanciful, or
vexatious. In the event that the MP themselves chooses to file a complaint, the
affidavit is not necessary. Any complaint levelled against MPs are referred to
the Ethics Committee by the Speaker.
The Committee is selective in the grievances it considers, rejecting those based
solely on media accounts or ongoing legal proceedings. The Committee conducts a
preliminary investigation before resolving whether or not to further investigate
the complaint, eventually issuing its findings after a full evaluation of the
The Speaker receives the Committee's report and consults with the House
regarding its consideration. A brief 30-minute debate on the report may also
take place. Misconduct allegations that implicate Members of Parliament fall
exclusively within the purview of the Ethics Committee.
What Action Can Be Recommended by Ethics Committee?
The code of conduct and ethical norms that Parliament expects of MPs is examined
by the Ethics Committee of India's Lok Sabha, the lower house. The committee is
responsible for making suggestions regarding ethical behaviour and scrutinizing
MP conduct. In situations where conduct violations are found, the group can
investigate and suggest punishments.
Including a range of potential actions, the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha
is able to make recommendations such as:
- Admonition: For a member's improper conduct or breach of ethics, the
Ethics Committee has the right to issue a warning or admonishment,
encouraging them to amend their actions.
- Suspension: Recommendations for the suspension of a Lok Sabha member for
a certain time period due to serious misconduct are subject to the Lok
- Expulsion: The Lok Sabha has the power to expel a member in instances of
severe misbehaviour, following the committee's recommendation. This course
of action needs the Lok Sabha's approval as well.
The Lok Sabha usually gives substantial weight to the Ethics Committee's
recommendations on disciplinary action, although it's worth noting that such
suggestions are not legally binding. To enforce penalties such as expulsion or
suspension, the Lok Sabha must ultimately pass a resolution with a majority
The parliamentary system's integrity must be upheld by adhering to ethical
standards, which depend on the nature of the alleged misconduct and the Ethics
Committee's recommendations. The gravity of disciplinary measures is also tied
to these specific actions.
Can action taken by Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha be challenged in Court?
The disciplinary measures recommended by the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha
against a member are considered as part of the Parliament's internal procedures,
subject to parliamentary privilege. Within legislative bodies, parliamentary
privilege provides legal immunities and protection for proceedings.
It is generally accepted that the separation of powers between the legislative
and judicial branches means that courts do not typically review the Ethics
Committee's decisions and recommendations. Infringing on the legislature's
internal disciplinary procedures is not something that courts usually do.
Amidst all of the rules and regulations, there are occasional exceptions. In
order to protect the Constitution and essential liberties, it is crucial to
remain steadfast. If Parliament or the Ethics Committee exceeds their
jurisdiction, the justice system can step in. Should a politician's freedom of
expression or other fundamental rights be infringed upon through disciplinary
sanctions, they can turn to the court system for potential recourse.
The Constitution and rule of law must align with the actions of the Ethics
Committee or Parliament, else courts may intervene. Remedies can be issued when
constitutional rights or principles are infringed upon.
Relatively rare, legal challenges to parliamentary decisions are a complex
matter that require specific legal and constitutional considerations. It's
important to exhaust all other means of redress within the parliamentary system
before turning to this last resort.
In court, challenging a decision is feasible only on limited grounds such as
claiming a denial of natural justice, gross illegality or unconstitutionality.
A writ petition filed in the High Court may be a member's best option if the
matter in question focuses mainly on state-level affairs or the actions of the
Fundamental rights violated on a national level can warrant a direct writ
petition to the Supreme Court.
Although its establishment is recent and historically ad hoc, the Lok Sabha
Ethics Committee stands as a crucial player in maintaining the ethical conduct
of India's parliamentary members. As a watchdog of parliamentary ethics, it
enforces rigidly high moral standards among its legislating members. Despite
often being overlooked, the Committee's work is essential in preserving the Lok
Written By: Md.Imran Wahab
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected]
, Ph no: 9836576565