The Indian Parliament has expelled 11 legislators caught on camera accepting money in exchange for raising issues in the legislature. The expose had put the spotlight on political corruption.
"Those in favor may say aye. Those against may say no. I think the ayes have it. The ayes have it. The motion is adopted," announced speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Somnath Chatterjee, sealing the fate of 10 legislators, as the House voted to expel them.
The Upper House fired another member who had been caught on camera accepting money for raising questions in Parliament.
Parliament took the action 10 days after a news channel broadcast images of the lawmakers allegedly taking between $230 and $2,500 from journalists posing as representatives of a fictitious lobbying group.
The legislators, who belonged to different political parties, denied any wrongdoing.
But on Thursday a parliamentary committee ruled that the conduct of the lawmakers was unethical, setting the stage for their expulsion.
However, the sacking of the legislators did not have unanimous support. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party walked out of the House before the vote, saying the punishment was too harsh and did not match the offense. The BJP had the largest number of legislators caught in what has been termed the cash-for-questions scandal.
It is indeed the stiffest action taken by Parliament against corruption and the single biggest expulsion in its history. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the step was necessary to restore the public's faith in lawmakers.
"We have no choice but to act to protect the integrity of this citadel of our democratic way of life," he said.
However, political observers say the expulsion of the lawmakers will do little to restore confidence in politicians and bureaucrats, who are widely believed to be corrupt.
Corruption has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. In a second sting operation a week ago, another TV channel broadcast images of seven legislators apparently demanding kickbacks for projects to be paid for by special funds allotted to them. Parliament has ordered another investigation into the second scandal.