March 6, 2018 9:07:50 pm
The Supreme Court today said that parliamentarians determining their salary and perks themselves was an “moral” and “ethical issue” and sought for data on how much amount was spent on pension and other facilities provided to former lawmakers.
The apex court observed this while hearing a petition which has raised several questions including how MPs could themselves determine their salaries and perks and also sought scrapping of pension to them.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench comprising justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the Finance Bill 2018 contained provisions regarding salary and pension of MPs and also about revision of their allowances after every five years starting from 1 April 2023 on the basis of cost inflation index.
Venugopal also referred to a judgement by a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court and said that the issues raised in the petitions were already being dealt with by the larger bench.
Regarding the court’s query on setting up of an independent mechanism for determination of salaries and allowances of the MPs, the Attorney General said that elaborate procedure was already being followed for fixing the salary.
During the hearing, when an advocate representing one of the petitioners raised the issue of “burden on the exchequer” due to payment of pension and entitlement of several other facilities to former MPs, the bench asked, “Do you have any data of how much amount has been spent on it?”
The lawyer said that they would place the data in this regard before the apex court. The counsel also contended that even after death of an MP, his or her family members were entitled to pension for life.
When the issue of MPs determining their salaries themselves was raked up, the bench said, “it is a moral, ethical issue. The second is propriety issue that they fix it (salary) themselves”.
The bench also dealt with the arguments advanced by the petitioners that pension was given to a MP even if he or she was elected to the House only for a day. It observed that several MPs have got successive tenures in the Parliament and they have dedicated their “whole life”.
S N Shukla, general secretary of petitioner NGO ‘Lok Prahari’, argued in the court that earlier the MPs were entitled for pension after having a tenure of four years in the House but this has now changed and even if a person was elected as an MP for a day, he or she was entitled for pension and other facilities.
When the petitioners raised the issue of increase in the assets of lawmakers, the bench this was already been dealt with by the top court. Regarding the arguments that lawmakers were not prohibited from carrying out their professional works, including practice as advocates, the bench said, “it would not be appropriate for us to comment on this is pending”.
The apex court observed that lawmakers were entitled for salary and allowances so that they could maintain themselves in a dignified manner and even after a sitting MP or MLA loses election, he or she has to be in constant touch with the people and move around. The arguments in the matter remained inconclusive and the court has fixed the case for tomorrow.
The court had last month directed the Centre to clarify its stand on setting up of an independent mechanism for determination of salaries and allowances of the MPs after the government had said the issue was “under consideration”.
The apex court had in March last year agreed to examine the constitutional validity of laws granting pension and other perks to retired MPs and had sought responses from the Centre and ECI on the issue.
The NGO has approached the apex court challenging the Allahabad High Court order dismissing its plea which 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 has also said that Parliament has no power to provide for pensionary benefits to lawmakers without making any law.
It has also claimed in the plea that pension and other amenities granted to ex-MPs were “unreasonable” and sought withdrawal of such facilities, while questioning various provisions of the law framed by Parliament.
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