Several lawmakers have faced disqualification for holding ‘office of profit’, but the expression itself has not been defined in any law or judgement, prompting a Parliamentary committee to ask the Law Ministry to come up with a bill clearly listing offices holding of which would disqualify a member of Parliament.
The Joint Committee of Parliament on Office of Profit in two of its latest reports has observed that the expression has not been defined in the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act, Parliament (Prevention of disqualification) Act or in any judgement delivered either by a high court or the Supreme Court.
It said this is evidently “because it is not easy to frame an all embracing definition, covering all the different kinds of posts which exist under government and those which might hereafter be created.”
Now the Joint Committee has asked the Law Ministry “to undertake an exercise to draft a bill enumerating clearly the bodies/offices which would disqualify MPs, bodies/offices which would disqualify MPs, bodies/offices for which exemption need to be granted and bodies/offices which would not incur disqualification of MPs…”
The panel pointed out that Part I and Part II of the Schedule to the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act contain lists of bodies, the holder of which would result in disqualification.
“The Joint Committee are of the view that there may be a number of bodies or offices which may not have been included in the said list and, as a consequence, this gives an impression that the membership of bodies/offices which are outside the ‘negative list’ are safe and would not jeopardise the membership of the MPs, which of course, is not a convincing position as each and every body/office which are outside the negative list needs to be examined with reference to principles/guidelines laid down for the purpose,” the committee observed.
It said there is a need to remove any ambiguity on the issue of bodies becoming a part of which could lead to disqualification of a lawmaker.
In one of the two reports tabled in Parliament on August 3, the committee said MPs who are members of four bodies functioning under the Ministry of External Affairs would continue to remain out of the ambit of ‘office of profit’ law and would not attract disqualification.
The Joint Committee recommended that The Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Research and Information System and Hindi Salahakar Samiti of the External Affairs Ministry should remain listed under the relevant sections of the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, the membership of which should not disqualify a Member of Parliament.
The Committee, headed by Satyapal Singh (BJP) also said it agrees with the view of the MEA that membership of the Indian Council of World Affairs should not be considered ‘office of profit’ and therefore not be listed specifically in the schedule of the disqualification law.