According to an official release on 25th August 2020, the Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee has authorised two officials of the Secretariat to receive complaints of alleged ethical misconduct and violation of code of conduct against members and will be directly dealt with by the Upper House’s secretariat. In a meeting of the Committee last week, the Committee decided to authorise a director and an additional director attached with the committee to receive complaints against members of the house.
Rule 295 (4) of the Rules of Procedure of the House provides that a complaint should be addressed in writing to the committee or to an officer authorised by it, but this authorisation was not done so far. The authorisation was now done, for the first time after 16 years, in the first meeting chaired by Shiv Pratap Shukla, who was nominated as chairman of the committee by Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on 31st July, further to the expiry of membership of Rajya Sabha of former chairman Prabhat Jha.
Stating that chairman Naidu was keen about the Ethics Committee being more proactive in pursuit of its mandate[i], Shukla urged the members of the committee to address ambiguities in the present rules relating to taking up complaints based on media reports and received through the mail for the effective functioning of the committee.
The Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha was constituted in March 1997 as an internal self-regulatory mechanism of the council to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of the members and to examine the cases referred to it. The Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha, in its First Report in 1999 formulated a 14-point Code of Conduct for members of the Rajya Sabha[ii] which requires members not to do anything that brings disrepute to the Parliament and affects their credibility, ensuring that their private financial interests do not come in conflict with the public interest, not to be disrespectful to any religion and work for the promotion of secular values, maintaining high standards of morality, dignity, decency and values in public life.
Prior to July 2004, the rules applicable to the committee of privileges were applied to the Ethics Committee. In 2004, rules were incorporated in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States specifying the functions of the Ethics Committee, the procedure for making complaints etc.
Since coming into being, the Ethics Committee of Rajya Sabha took up three complaints referred to it by the then chairman of the house relating to misuse of Question Hour in 2005, misuse of MPLADS funds in 2006 and default in repayment of bank loans in 2016. (ANI)