It's all about profit
LEGISLATION: Political parties are utilising parliament like the holy
Ganges to purify their dirt and defrauds. They are framing laws to cover
up their mistakes and, in the process, decreasing the level of morality
in the country.
And they are doing it purposely with the knowledge that their actions
are depraving the society. They are not sensitive enough to assess the
harm they are doing.
Take the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill,
2006. It condones an MP for occupying the "office of profit."
The legislation, in fact, exploits the constitutional provision
(Article 102) which says that a member will not be disqualified if he or
she holds an office of profit under the central or State government.
What the constitution-makers had in mind was such appointments that
required MPs to have the credentials that were not easily available
elsewhere. It was meant to be an exception for the public good, not the
booty to be distributed among politicians.
But both the central and the states have misused the constitutional
provision to reward their ardent supporters in either house of
parliament and the assemblies. True, members draw no salary but they
enjoy all the facilities and perks as the ministers do.
It is no secret that the ruling parties make appointments to keep
their flock intact. Those who are not included in the council of
ministers are "bought" through chairmanship of corporations or such
The legislation which parliament has passed exempts some 50 members.
They include the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee and the leader of
ruling United Progressive Alliance, Sonia Gandhi.
Like the rest, they too probably feared disqualification because of
the position they occupied in the name of office without profit. It is
regrettable that Sonia Gandhi is going to head the National Advisory
Council once again.
This was primarily the office that made her resign the Lok Sabha
seat. No doubt, parliament has declared the position as office of no
profit. But can an illegal act become legal through the sanction of
parliament? The judicial scrutiny is yet to take place.
Since the act is applicable retrospectively, the past sins have been
washed away. All those who have occupied the "office of profit" retain
Poor Jaya Bachchan has been a victim because her case went up to the
Supreme Court which upheld the disqualification pronounced by the
Vindictive as top Congress leadership is, it had a vicious clause
included in the bill saying that even if the law court exempted a
member, he or she could not be reinstated. In any case, after the
Supreme Court ruling, Jaya Bachchan's membership could not have been
The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill is
like a run-away marriage. It cannot get sanctity because parliament says
so. Do members believe that if they put their stamp on anything illegal
it becomes legal? Today the list of exempted MPs is of 50.
Tomorrow, it could double or even treble. The states already play
havoc with the constitutional provision. After the act, they may go
It is no secret that the ruling party or the combination in power
adjusts all the supporting members against one post or the other if they
are not included in the Cabinet.
The assessment whether the "office of profit" is really so should be
left to the Central Election Commission or law courts. Parliament should
not poke its nose in every matter and by doing so it is only dwarfing
Take another law which parliament has passed. This is to legalise the
unauthorised or illegal structures in Delhi. Chief Minister Shiela Dixit
has gone on record as saying that she has saved the houses of MLAs
fromdemolition. Did she do so in the case of jhuggis and jhonpris? Must
the axe fall every time on the common man?
The nexus between builders, bureaucrats and politicians has converted
the capital into a concrete jungle. Even parks and green spots have not
been spared. Both the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court stand
defeated because they had authorised the demolition of unauthorised
The Supreme Court has accepted a petition against the new act
although it has not given its judgment yet. Maybe, it will stick to its
original verdict. As for Delhi government, one would like to know why it
staged the drama of demolishing illegal buildings when its real purpose
was to see them intact?
I do not want to shame the political parties, particularly the
Congress, by quoting Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru who strongly
believed that "wrong means will not lead to right results."
The moral aspect of governance was central to their thoughts. They
said the "contempt for what be called the moral and spiritual side of
life not only ignores something that is basic in man but also deprives
human behaviour of standards and values."
Both the acts are immoral and wrong in content and purpose. The
Congress and the Left have particularly brought down the dignity of
A better behaviour was expected from them. Their methods were
vitiated and so have been their ends. The BJP was seen keeping away from
the bill on the office of profit.
The party took pains to explain that its senior member V.K. Malhotra
had resigned from the chairmanship of All India Council of Sports before
the office of profit scandal came in public.
I do not know if the party is as puritan in the states as it has
claimed to be in parliament. However, the BJP was in the forefront when
it came to regularising the unauthorised structures in Delhi.
The two acts have raised many questions. One of them is the political
parties' design to circumvent the court. What is still worse is the
violation of the rule of law. That parliament should try to cover up the
lawless laws is all the more disconcerting.
I am sure that the laws, particularly the one relating to the office
of profit, will be challenged in the Supreme Court, even at the expense
of the usual attack by the political parties of "judicial activism." We
should bow before the elected representatives. But by accepting what
parliament has done, we may only be encouraging the effort to dilute the
authority of law courts.
We have the shameful precedent of the emergency when the courts did
not matter and when administrative procedures and conventions were
subverted for the benefit of individuals. That was how dissent got
smothered followed by a general erosion of democratic values. The nation
has to take up the gauntlet thrown down by political parties.