Taking a strong stand on corruption India's parliament on Friday ended its winter session with a vote to expel 11 lawmakers who were caught taking bribes in a sting operation. The lower house voted to expel 10 lawmakers and the upper house expelled one member, the first time that body, known as the Rajya Sabha, has expelled one of its own. The powerful lower house, or Lok Sabha, has not removed a member since 1951.
The 11 legislators belonging to different political parties, were shown on the independent Aaj Tak television channel earlier this month accepting cash from journalists who posed as representatives of a fictitious lobbying group. The vote follows the findings of a five-member committee appointed by the speaker of the powerful lower house which ruled that the conduct of the lawmakers was "unethical" and they should not be allowed to continue as members of parliament. "The expulsion is not a matter of legality but that of our conscience," said Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee after the motion was passed in both houses of parliament. "It was a painful decision but will vindicate the dignity of our sovereign parliament," Mukherjee said.
The televised vote was unanimous in favor of the expulsion after the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party walked out ahead of the ballot, saying the punishment was too harsh and did not match the offense. "It was unbecoming conduct on part of the involved members. But this kind of punishment is unjustified," said BJP leader L. K. Advani. Six of the lawmakers are from his party.
BJP member Chhattrapal Singh Lodha made history by becoming the first Rajya Sabha member to be expelled. However, some questioned the legality of the move. "The term of a Rajya Sabha member is fixed and there is no provision in the constitution that allows for shortening that term," Ram Jethmalani a former BJP Law Minister told the Press Trust of India news agency, reports the AP. N.U.