MP Mahua Moitra’s Explosive Speech In Parliament Calls Out The Handling Of A Sexual Harassment Case
“It is not in India’s destiny to be ruled by cowards….” I felt a fierce sense of hope when I heard Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra speak in the Parliament recently. And that’s saying something, because the current political climate of India is a comedy. And just like Hell in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Indian politics has an inscription on its entrance: Abandon all hope, ye who enter. But MP Moitra’s fiery speeches fill you with hope, pride and a longing for more parliamentarians to adopt her fearlessness. Because asking questions of the government isn’t just encouraged, it is critical to the success of a democracy. Recently, she was on the brink of being prosecuted for breach of privilege over her remarks about a former Chief Justice of India.
On Tuesday, MP Mahua Moitra launched a scathing attack on the Government in the Parliament, addressing in her speech everything from the Ram Mandir issue to the government’s handling of the farmers’ protests and the use of laws like UAPA to curb media reportage and free speech. But the remarks that caused the biggest stir in the House were about former Chief Justice of India and current MP Ranjan Gogoi.
“What is left of the resilient media is being targeted by the UAPA and other draconian laws.”
The sacred cow that was the judiciary is no longer sacred. It stopped being sacred day a sitting CJI was accused of sexual harassment, presided over own trial, cleared himself & accepted a nomination to Upper House within 3 months of retirement replete with Z+ security cover pic.twitter.com/ODFn2pd2Z1
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) February 9, 2021
In her speech during the discussion on the motion of thanks on President’s Address, MP Mahua Moitra trudged up the allegations of sexual harassment that were levelled by junior court assistant in the Supreme Court at the then CJI, Gogoi in April 2019. The incident in question had happened in October 2018.
Moitra questioned what went down in this case once the allegations were made, without taking the former CJI’s name. She asked how it was a major digression of the natural laws of justice which direct that no man can be judge in his own case. Because turns out, that while a special bench of Supreme Court judges was convened to deal with the matter, as was requested by the victim in her affidavit, the convener was none other than Gogoi himself, along with two other judges! This bench is reported to have passed an order directing the media how it should be talking about the case.
Eventually, Justice Gogoi asked the now CJI, Justice Bobde, to convene an in-house panel with other SC justices, which ultimately concluded that they found nothing of substance in the allegations. It was also reported that after this dismissal, the woman was reinstated in her job by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, her family members, including her husband and brother-in-law, who had been mysteriously suspended from their jobs in Delhi Police, were also rehired.
Clearly, there was much going on here that was not divulged or made public, and the MP Mahua Moitra, by bringing this up, was asking the questions that many in pursuit of the whole truth of the matter, were also asking.
However, her remarks caused an uproar in the House, with several members calling it a violation of Parliamentary privilege, which allows MPs freedom of speech. However, it is still a restricted freedom since there is a rule that states, “A parliamentarian shall not reflect upon the conduct of persons in high authority unless the discussion is based on a substantive motion drawn in proper terms.” Even Article 121 of the Indian Constitution states that no parliamentarian can discuss the conduct of the judges of Supreme Court and High Courts.
The angered BJP MPs began brandishing their rulebooks and asking that Moitra be called out and her remarks expunged. However, Moitra continued to talk about it, which could been the reason for a call to initiate action against her for breach of privilege.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, on Monday evening, had said that a privilege motion could be moved against MP Mahua Moitra for her remarks on a Chief Justice of India.
He told ANI, ”Raising the issue of the Ram Mandir judgment (the Ayodhya temple-mosque verdict) and bringing the then Chief Justice and other things, it’s a serious matter and we’re thinking of taking appropriate measures.”
In return, Moitra, being her usual fiery self on social media, had tweeted that she wasn’t afraid of speaking the truth even in the face of a privilege motion. She also tweeted remarks from her speech.
It would be a privelege indeed if a breach of privelege motion is initiated against me for speaking the truth during India’s darkest hour
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) February 8, 2021
However, the law, as many even at that very moment had pointed, was on the Trinamool Congress MP’s side. Because as it were, the rule that was being defended is only applicable to sitting judges of the Supreme Court. Since Justice Gogoi was not a former and not a sitting Chief Justice, he does not count as a “higher authority.”
Moitra took to Twitter again, this time throwing sly shade at the decision to not take action against her.
What? No action?
Just when I was gearing up to fight the good fight! https://t.co/jOg6gwpgzJ
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) February 9, 2021
I won’t deny, Mahua Moitra’s speeches are the stuff of performative fantasy, riddled with quotes from historical figures, thought leaders and philosophers. They often remind me of elocution debates from school, for which we were encouraged to write such eloquent speeches by our English teachers, who unsurprisingly looked a lot like Moitra does. From stating that “India was in a state of undeclared emergency” to saying that the government has turned propaganda and spreading misinformation into “a cottage industry,” I couldn’t help but applaud every single phrase bomb she dropped.
Huge Huge respect for you @MahuaMoitra.
Every patriotic Indian must listen to her speech in which she invokes Rabindranath Tagore whose teachings are being selectively used by the BJP in its election tourism in West Bengal. https://t.co/NziPXnzVrf
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) February 9, 2021
But even then, the MP shows major spunk and gumption in the way she relentlessly puts forth her point before a shouting bunch of men. If you see the video of her speech, you’ll realise how she explicitly clarifies that it is not she who is making the allegations agains former CJI Gogoi. She is merely bringing it up. All this while BJP MPs continued to call it an “insult to the Indian judiciary to accuse its Chief Justice of sexual harassment.” Excuse me but if such a travesty, even in the form of allegations, has transpired, we must absolutely be talking about this! Especially if the manner in which the matter was resolved is so dubious that the accused judge himself presided over his case!
Furthermore, and I know the anti-feminists will line up to say I am reading too much into this, but did you or did you not see a bunch of men trying to gaslight a woman into thinking she had said something wrong? Everyone was quick to open the rulebook but are you telling me that despite another MP pointing it out that this was about a former CJI, the other MPs continued to get Moitra to stop? Sorry sirs, but why won’t you just listen to the woman?
What Mahua Moitra is doing, even if performative, is what every opposition leader should be doing everyday round the clock. Just scream at the top of your lungs and highlight how utterly incompetent, corrupt and bigoted this govt. is.
— Hoopoe #releaseNodeepKaur (@akks_13) February 9, 2021
— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) February 9, 2021
TBH, I am glad that we’ve got women parliamentarians like MP Mahua Moitra, from whom the others can learn a thing or two about being eloquent but fierce in their inquiry and asking the right questions. The Opposition clearly needs to take a leaf out of her book and structure their arguments like she does.