February 22, 2020
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RS Debate: OOP

'Plug The Loopholes'

'We must resolve ourselves, take a resolution on this occasion among ourselves, that we will rectify the mistakes that had been committed in the name of creating more and more offices of profit.'

'Plug The Loopholes'

Sir, I have no intention to go into the validity of the constitutional issues connected with this Bill. Learned lawyers by their profession, but who are eminent Members of this House, in their own capacity as Members, have produced the arguments for and against. 

I had no intention to go even into the moral issues involved. But, after listening to the esteemed leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the House, I am tempted to speak only on the moral issues. He seems to be inventing arguments in support of Members of Parliament occupying offices of profit. But he forgets that the very basic principle of democracy, which we practice in our country under our Constitution, is, the separation of powers. He must have been a student of Politics. I know that he was a student of Politics and he must have learned the textbooks of Montesqueue about Separation of Powers, and I am astonished to hear him say that today you can save money on TA by appointing somebody as Chairman of the Corporation or you could nominate a person, for convenience sake, to hold two or three posts. If we accept that as a theory in democratic administration, it will destroy democracy in our country, because our democracy is based on the principle that Executive, Judiciary and Legislature should function in their respective spheres, without one being able to show favour or patronage to anyone else and without one interfering with the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the other. If we question these fundamentals, then we will have to go in for a new Constitution! With this Constitution that we have adopted, I am afraid, we cannot accept the basic principle, which has been used by Mr. Yechury to support this Bill.

I am not against this Bill. But I wish to point out that, at least, we must resolve ourselves, take a resolution on this occasion among ourselves, that we will rectify the mistakes that had been committed in the name of creating more and more offices of profit. There has to be a legislation like the Act of 1959, because in a Parliamentary democracy, we have to exempt the Ministers, Leaders of Opposition, Whips and Chief Whips, and exempt them from the operation of this. There may be a justification to exempt a few more categories of people in our system of democracy and give them the right to continue in such offices. But the intention of Article 102-1(a) was that they should give exemptions. The rule is that you cannot occupy executive posts while you are a Member of Parliament or a Member of the Legislature. 

Exemption is provided because Ministers have to be exempted; whips have to be exempted. Certain positions you have to consider for Members of Parliament or Legislature out of sheer necessity. But what we have done? We have made the exemption a rule and the number of people who have been exempted, both at the State level and the Central level, runs into about 400 or 500 offices and each office has been recognised or justified for some reason or the other which was not intended by Article 102. 

So, the first resolution that we should give ourselves is, at the earliest opportunity we must rule down these offices of profit. Limit it to the barest minimum number and then we have to recommit ourselves because that will be by recommitting ourselves to the basic cardinal principle of separation of power. I would go even a step forward, that is, in the new Act we must introduce a legislation, a clause in the legislation, that not more than 4 per cent or 5 per cent of the number of Members of the Legislature should be allowed to occupy offices of profit, other than those contained in the Schedule. In other words, there will be a restraint on the part of the Legislature in multiplying offices of profit. 

Again I would suggest that there is a perception in this country, Sir, that we, Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislature, are out to grab any post that is available in this country, not necessarily for salaries because many of us do not care for salaries, but all of us often care for positions of power or influence. These are positions of power or influence. Why not allow others to take such positions? We are happy in the position of being an MP. There is enough work to do for an MP. An MP has to nurse his constituency. He is a Member of half a dozen committees, very important committees. Several Members of Parliament do not attend these committees because they may be Chairmen of corporations, or running Khadi and Village Industries boards. Whatever may be the reason, if we devote our full time as an MP or an MLA, we will have no time for extra job. Second point added to that is: Why not encourage those in our own parties to occupy these positions? That is one way of building up leadership in this country. Allow them who are members of our own parties to occupy some of these posts. Let them also lead this. But we try to monopolise everything for ourselves and that is why we have lost the respect of the people and they consider us as people using every opportunity to enhance our power and our influence and, therefore, I would earnestly plead that we will pass this Bill and I would support the Bill but I want a commitment from the Law Minister, when he will reply, that within a specified time he will bring in a legislation fixing the number of posts that can be covered under the exempted rule and making sure that whatever posts are available are allowed to be occupied by others who may be more qualified than many of us. 

Let us not arrogate to ourselves as Members of Parliament having entire experience of the world necessary for manning these posts. When we look at these posts, what is the justification for having only an MP or an MLA for posts like Chairman of the Wakf Board or Chairman of the Village Industries Board, or to be President of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, or to be Chairman of the Indian Council of Sports, or to be Chairman of the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority or Hooghly Bridge Authority. There are dozens of people equally qualified as we are. Let us give them a chance. Why do we think that we, MPs, are to have all that power? 'The kingdom, the power and the glory is mine.' 

Why do we appropriate that status of God that we are competent to have everything? Therefore, I would request the hon. Minister to come forward with a legislation limiting the number of posts which can be exempted. Otherwise, we will go on violating the rule. We tried 15 per cent rule on Ministers as the strength of the Council. But, I know three or four State Governments which have appointed Parliamentary Secretaries in dozens and they have been given all the powers of Ministers. So, we find that we make a mockery of legislation. Somehow or other, we must ensure that the number of posts eligible to be exempted is limited to the barest minimum. 

I would also want to end by saying that even though the Law Minister said in his preliminary remarks that there need not be uniformity, this is the responsibility of States; they themselves can do. But, we made a legislation curtailing the power of the State Governments also after 15 per cent rule. Like that, we can think of ways and means to ensure that State Governments are also restrained. Otherwise, there is no point only in restraining the Central Government in the matter of holding Offices of Profit. We should think of a legislation which will cover the States, lay down criteria which would be of uniform applicability, both for Centre and States and ensure that our Constitution works in theory and in practice. We, as Members, have taken the oath on our admission to the Membership of the Legislature of undertaking the responsibility of not violating the Constitution through loopholes, but plugging the loopholes and maintaining the sanctity of the Constitution. With these words, I support the Bill, but with the earnest hope that the hon. Minister will give an assurance openly in the House in the concluding remarks that he will bring a legislation to plug these loopholes.

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