Explained: The Manipur office of profit case and the 2012 law that was struck down by HC

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August 03, 2021 11:04 AM

Manipur Congress MLA DD Thaisii had sought a direction by the Supreme Court to the Election Commission to perform its Constitutional obligation under Article 192.

A Manipur Congress MLA late last month moved the apex court seeking an expeditious decision by the Governor in the case.

The Manipur office of profit case has been listed on the Supreme Court’s website for August 26. While the decision has been deferred several times now, a Manipur Congress MLA late last month moved the apex court seeking an expeditious decision by the Governor in the case.

In his plea, MLA DD Thaisii sought a direction by the Supreme Court to the Election Commission to perform its Constitutional obligation under Article 192. He submitted that this is necessary for maintaining the purity of the Manipur Legislative Assembly.

What is the case?

The Manipur government had enacted the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012 which empowered the Chief Minister to appoint MLAs as Parliamentary Secretary with the status and rank of a Minister of State. In 2017, 12 MLAs were sworn in as Parliamentary Secretaries, on the day when BJP’s N Biren (chief minister) and his Council of Ministers took the oath of office and secrecy. These 12 MLAs were L Susindro, N Indrajit, Dr S Ranjan, S Subashchandra, K Robindro, Leishiyo Keishing, L Rameshwor, Th Satyabrata, H Dingo, Khasim Vashum, Awangbow Newmai and Asab Uddin. The elevation entitled the 12 MLAs to draw higher salaries and allowances.

However, the 2012 law was challenged in the Manipur High Court. The HC struck down Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012, and the Manipur Parliamentary (Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Repealing Act, 2018 through its order delivered in September 2020. The abolishing of the law made the Parliamentary Secretary post for the MLAs unconstitutional. However, since they held two posts for around three years, the Manipur Congress appealed to Governor Najma Heptulla to disqualify these MLAs for holding offices of profit. The governor then sought the Election Commission’s view on it.

The EC said that since the Acts were in force when the MLAs held the office, they could not be disqualified retrospectively. According to the rule, if a legislator occupies an Office of Profit, he or she automatically incurs disqualification under Article 191 of the Constitution of India.

What is an Office of Profit?

‘Office of Profit’, as the name suggests is a government office held by an MLA or an MP from which they receive financial benefits like salaries and perks. An MLA or an MP can be disqualified if he/she holds the office of profit under state or central government, except from the office exempted by a law passed by Parliament or state legislature.

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