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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Rajya Sabha nomination should not be confused with the conferral of a Padma award

Our Parliament comprises two Houses: The House of the People,Lok Sabha and the Council of States,Rajya Sabha.

Written by Soli J. Sorabjee | Published: May 3, 2012 3:33:03 am

Our Parliament comprises two Houses: The House of the People,Lok Sabha and the Council of States,Rajya Sabha. Members of the Lok Sabha are those persons who have been successful in the general election to Parliament. Members of the Rajya Sabha consist of representatives of the states and Union territories. Under Article 80(3) of the Constitution,12 persons may be nominated to the Rajya Sabha if they fall under the specified categories,namely “literature,science,art and social services”.

The underlying philosophy of nomination to the Rajya Sabha is that some persons eminent in their respective fields are not inclined to plunge into the tumult and turbulence of an election nor have the requisite time,energy and resources to fight a successful election with all that it involves. Yet the presence of such eminent persons in the Rajya Sabha would be beneficial,as it would raise the quality and level of deliberations by reason of their contribution to the debates. Nomination is recognition of a person’s capacity to enhance the deliberative processes by reason of his eminence and experience in his particular discipline. Nomination of a person to the Rajya Sabha is not to be confused with the conferral of a Padma award. A nominated member may well qualify for a Padma award or a Bharat Ratna. However,a Padma awardee is not ipso facto eligible to be nominated a Rajya Sabha member unless he falls within the specified categories. To illustrate: suppose a person who can hardly read or write has,during a period of national disaster,without regard to his personal well-being,engaged himself in activities that have resulted in the safety and survival of several people. Such a person would rightly qualify for a Bharat Ratna. However,no purpose would be served by his nomination to the Rajya Sabha,because of his inability to meaningfully participate in any debate.

Sachin Tendulkar’s nomination has been generally cheered by the nation. But some argumentative Indians have questioned it on the ground that the categories specified in Article 80(3) of the Constitution,namely,“literature,art,science and social service”,do not include sport and,therefore,no sportsperson is eligible for nomination. This argument is unsound. Law or jurisprudence are not one of the specified categories in Article 80(3). Yet eminent jurists like retired Chief Justice of India Ranganath Misra and Fali Nariman have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha,reflecting Parliament’s understanding that the specified categories are not exhaustive but are merely illustrative. As regards sportspersons,Dara Singh the wrestler was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

That apart,the expression “art” is defined in legal dictionaries and by Webster’s International Dictionary as “systematic application of knowledge or skill in effecting a desired result”. Thus the element of human skill is implicit in the expression “art”. What is the meaning of the word “sport”? According to dictionaries,“sport is a game,competition or activity needing physical effort and skill”. Sport is an occupational activity that certainly requires skill to produce a desired result. It is undeniable that the sport of cricket requires skill. Therefore,on an expansive interpretation of the expression “art”,sport would be included in it and the nomination of a sportsperson to the Rajya Sabha is perfectly constitutional. It bears emphasis that the purpose of nomination is that the nation may have the benefit of the views of eminent and experienced persons when legislative measures relating to a particular subject,with which they are familiar,are debated.

Regrettably,the cancer of corruption has infected cricket and its elimination is a national priority. Suppose a bill is tabled in the Rajya Sabha to tackle corruption or other malpractices in cricket. During the discussion,Tendulkar’s knowledge of prevalent corrupt practices would enable him to make a significant contribution to the debate about the causes of corruption in cricket,the measures to check and eliminate it,and a host of issues relevant to the subject. The need for a code of conduct for cricketers is in the air. What should be its content,how is it to be enforced,what are the penalties to be imposed for its breach? Tendulkar’s views on this would be highly relevant. It is fallacious to assume that his intervention in Rajya Sabha will be confined to how to hit a sixer or tackle a bouncer.

The argument that Tendulkar has not retired from cricket and will not have requisite time for attendance in Rajya Sabha is based on ill-founded assumptions. Fali Nariman,as a leading lawyer,was much in demand,yet he managed to find time to meaningfully participate in Rajya Sabha debates. Tendulkar may well arrange his schedule so as to enable him to attend the Rajya Sabha. Besides,a Rajya Sabha member can serve on one or other of parliamentary committees. He can,by active interaction with other members,influence the outcome of a debate.

Criticism of his nomination as a Congress ploy is unfortunate. It is wrong to assume that a person nominated by a political party becomes the mouthpiece of that party. There are instances where nominated members have criticised the party which nominated them.

We look forward to Sachin Tendulkar hitting his parliamentary sixes in the Rajya Sabha with the same passion and fervour as he did on the cricket field.

The writer is a former attorney general for India

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