The Supreme Court on Monday junked a PIL challenging the perks, including pension and travel allowances, given to former parliamentarians. The top court agreed with the finding of the Allahabad High Court that Parliament is competent to legislate on pensions for ex-MPs and it has the power to prescribe any condition subject to which the pension may be paid.
It held that the expression “allowances” of MPs occurring under Entry 73 of List I of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution was wide enough to cover the payment of “pension” and other benefits to the Members of Parliament or ex-MPs.
“The fact that there are express references to the payment of pension in the Constitution for certain constitutional functionaries and not for others, in our opinion does not lead to the conclusion that the Constitution, by its silence, prohibits the payment of pension to those constitutional functionaries,” a bench of Justice J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul said.
The apex court, however, left it to Parliament to decide whether the various benefits given to the lawmakers was “rational” or not, having regard to the affluent financial status of some of the MPs or the poverty of the millions of people.
The bench said that each constitutional office holder functioned as per the powers and duties entrusted to them either by the Constitution or the laws relevant to their powers and duties. “The framers of the Constitution believed that certain offices required a higher degree of protection, having regard to the greater degree of independence expected of the holders of their offices.
“The framers knew history and the attempts of the men in power to subjugate the holders of such offices. Safeguards, therefore, were provided in respect of the various aspects of the tenure and other conditions of service relevant for their offices. When it comes to MPs, however, such a higher degree of constitutional protection is not obviously required as the authority to make laws rests only with them,” the court said.
The top court refused to agree with the submission that pension was payable to an employee of State after his superannuation and since MPs are not employees of State, they are not entitled for pension, nor was Parliament competent to provide pension to the ex-MPs.
“In our opinion, there is a fallacy in the above submission, insofar as it assures that pension is only payable to former employees of State and nobody else. Such a submission emanates from the fact that certain payments made to the former employees of State are called pension and the misconception of the appellants that the expression ‘pension’ can only have one meaning. There are various other categories of payments made by State which are called ‘pensions’, such as old age pension, widow pension and disability pension etc,” the bench said.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court that the entitlement of former MPs to get pension and other benefits was “justified” as their dignity has to be maintained even after they completed their tenure as parliamentarians.
The judgement came on a plea of NGO ‘Lok Prahari’, which had approached the apex court challenging the Allahabad High Court order dismissing its plea that had claimed that pension and other perks being given to MPs even after demitting office were contrary to Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution. The plea also claimed that Parliament had no power to provide pensionary benefits to lawmakers without making any law.