Cash for query row – Mahua Moitra case and other cases in the past


The cash for query scandal is a grave issue that has marred the reputation of parliamentary and legislative processes in various countries. It involves the alarming practice of lawmakers accepting financial incentives in exchange for raising specific questions or issues during legislative sessions. This unethical conduct not only compromises the integrity of the political system but also erodes public trust in elected representatives. The first case involves Mahua Moitra, a Member of Parliament, who faced allegations of accepting bribes in exchange for asking questions in India’s Parliament. The second case, dating back to 2005, reveals a similar scandal where 11 Members of Parliament were caught accepting money for raising questions in the Indian Parliament.

These cases underscore the imperative need for transparency, ethical behaviour, and accountability in the functioning of legislative bodies. Furthermore, they shed light on the challenges faced by both lawmakers and society in maintaining the integrity of parliamentary proceedings. The following article examines the specifics of these cases and the implications they carry for the democratic processes they impact.

What is cash for query scandal?

A cash for query row refers to a scandal or controversy involving the exchange of money or financial incentives for parliamentary or legislative members to raise specific questions or issues during sessions or debates. In such situations, legislators are essentially accepting bribes or other financial inducements in return for using their positions to advance certain topics or concerns on behalf of individuals or organizations who have paid them. These unethical practices are generally considered a breach of trust and integrity within the legislative process and can lead to serious legal and political consequences for those involved. The term “cash for query” is often used in the context of political corruption and scandals.

Mohua Moitra Case

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, representing the Godda constituency, sent a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, alleging that TMC MP Mahua Moitra had shared her official login credentials with Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandani and received bribes in exchange for asking questions in Parliament related to the Adani Group and criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi[1]. Dubey’s claims were based on information from a Supreme Court lawyer who provided irrefutable evidence of bribes between Moitra and businessman Darshan Hiranandani, the CEO of the Hiranandani Group, a real estate conglomerate.

In his letter to the Speaker, Dubey pointed out that a significant portion of Moitra’s recent parliamentary questions, 50 out of 61, were focused on the Adani Group, a conglomerate she has frequently accused of wrongdoing. These cash-for-query allegations against TMC MP Mahua Moitra have generated significant political controversy. After multiple delays, the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee has summoned Moitra for a hearing on November 2. According to political experts, the committee cannot punish Ms Moitra even if it rules against her as it does not have executive powers. Its recommendation will have to go before the house, which can decide to accept or reject it. In the instance Ms Moitra is expelled from parliament, she can challenge the decision in court[2].

Moitra has acknowledged sharing her National Informatics Centre (NIC) portal login details with Hiranandani, a relatively common practice, but vehemently denies accepting money in exchange for the questions she raised in Parliament. Meanwhile, Hiranandani, who has admitted to having a close friendship with Moitra, claimed in a sworn affidavit that she made frequent demands, including luxury items, support for renovating her officially assigned bungalow in Delhi, travel expenses, and holidays. Moitra alleged that Hiranandani was coerced into signing the affidavit and has requested to cross-examine him. This controversy has attracted national attention because Mahua Moitra is considered a significant political figure who has resonated with both urban and rural voters in West Bengal, an eastern state of India.

2005 Scam

In a sting operation conducted by the online news platform Cobrapost and broadcast on a private TV channel on December 12, 2005, 11 Members of Parliament were caught accepting cash in exchange for raising questions in the Parliament[3]. In 2005, 11 MPs faced charges of accepting bribes in exchange for posing questions in Parliament. A special order was issued to frame charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy against these 11 former MPs, who were accused of taking money to ask questions in Parliament. Special Judge Poonam Chaudhry found that there was sufficient prima facie evidence to support charges of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act against these former Parliamentarians who were expelled in connection with the scandal, along with a private individual.

In January 2007, a Supreme Court ruling upheld the decision of Parliament to expel these MPs. The MPs had filed a petition challenging their expulsion, leading to a debate on whether the court could interfere in parliamentary procedures. In 2007, the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi Police to initiate legal proceedings against those involved in the offense. Two journalists from Cobrapost, Aniruddha Bahal and Suhasini Raj, were also named in the chargesheet for allegedly aiding the offense under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, the case against them was subsequently dismissed, with the court ruling that individuals conducting sting operations could not be prosecuted[4].

Impact of cash for query scandal on democratic framework

Such scandals erode public trust in the democratic system. When elected representatives are involved in corrupt practices, it undermines the faith that citizens have in their political leaders and institutions. The credibility of lawmakers is tarnished. People expect their representatives to act in the best interests of the nation, not for personal gain. When lawmakers are seen as accepting bribes for raising questions, it damages their reputation and integrity. Corrupt practices like cash for query compromise the integrity of the legislative process. The role of lawmakers is to scrutinize government actions and policies, and when this role is influenced by monetary incentives, the effectiveness of legislative oversight is severely compromised.

Scandals of this nature often lead to calls for reform and increased transparency in the political system. This can place additional pressure on governments to strengthen anti-corruption measures and improve accountability. The media plays a crucial role in uncovering such scandals and bringing them to the public’s attention. The impact of these revelations is amplified by media coverage and investigative reporting. The scandals can spark debates on the role of the judiciary in parliamentary procedures. Questions may arise about whether the judiciary should interfere in the internal workings of the legislature, as seen in the 2005 case mentioned earlier. They can also impact party dynamics and create divisions within political parties.

In conclusion, “cash for query” scandals have a far-reaching impact on democracy, threatening its fundamental principles of accountability, transparency, and equal representation. To protect and strengthen democratic institutions, it is essential to address and prevent such corrupt practices through robust anti-corruption measures, ethical standards, and legal enforcement.


The scandal involving TMC MP Mahua Moitra and the allegations made against her by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has generated significant political controversy and will be examined by the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee. Additionally, the 2005 cash-for-question scam exposed a similar unethical practice where 11 Members of Parliament were caught accepting cash for posing questions in the Parliament. While the cash for query scandals are instances of corruption within the legislative system, they also highlight the importance of maintaining the integrity of parliamentary proceedings and ensuring that public representatives act in the best interests of their constituents and the nation. Such scandals serve as a reminder of the need for transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct in the functioning of legislative bodies.

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Written by- Amrita Rout

[1] ‘BJP MP alleges Mahua Moitra took ‘bribes’ to ask questions in Parliament, TMC leader hits back, The Economic Times, October 16, 2023, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/bjp-mp-alleges-mahua-moitra-took-bribes-to-ask-questions-in-parliament-tmc-leader-hits-back/articleshow/104446450.cms

[2] Nikhila Henry and Cherylann Mollan, ‘Mahua Moitra: The firebrand Indian MP in ‘cash-for-query’ scandal’, BBC News, 27 October, 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-67225656

[3] HT Correspondent, ‘2005 cash-for-query scam: What was the scandal for which 11 former MPs face trial?’, Hindustan Times, Dec 07, 2017, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/2005-cash-for-query-scam-what-was-the-scandal-for-which-11-former-mps-face-trial/story-7cFLXU7SffoQhsxKnS2ACM.html

[4] Ibid.

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