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Posts Tagged ‘member of parliament’

Are measures to minimize conflict of interest of MPs adequate?

December 21st, 2010 2 comments

In India, one of the common threads that run through many of the corruption scandals is the issue of conflict of interest i.e. public officials taking policy decisions based on their personal interest.  For example, Shashi Tharoor in the IPL controversy or Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh Housing Society scam.

Many countries take measures to minimize conflict of interest of its MPs by regulating membership of parliamentarians in Committees, making it mandatory for them to declare pecuniary interest, and restricting employment both during and after completion of tenure.  For example, the US Senate has a detailed Code of Official Conduct that provides guidelines on conflict of interest.

India also has some measures in place to minimize conflict of interest.  These are codified in the Code of Conduct for Ministers, Code of Conduct for Members of the Rajya Sabha, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and Handbook for Members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.  Every Rajya Sabha MP has to declare his or her interest (along with assets and liabilities).  He has to declare five pecuniary interests:  remunerative directorship, remunerated activity, majority shareholding, paid consultancy and professional engagement.  Lok Sabha MPs can object to another MP joining a parliamentary committee on grounds that he has personal, pecuniary or direct interest.  (For more details, see PRS note on Conflict of Interest Issues in Parliament).

On December 1, 2010, PRS held its annual Conference on Effective Legislatures.  One of the topics discussed was MPs and Conflict of Interest: Issues and Resolution.  Panelists included D Raja, Prakash Javdekar and Supriya Sule.  Issues such as requirement for transparency, expertise of legislators, election of honest legislators, and ethical media were discussed.  The issues that were raised during the discussion are summarised in the PRS Summary of Proceedings from the Conference.

MP Transparency: India and South Africa

December 16th, 2010 No comments

The following is a comparison of the rules regarding the transparency of MPs’ private interests in India and South Africa.

In India, conflict of interest amongst MPs has been debated extensively in the recent past. The primary check on preventing potential conflicts is that all MPs must declare their assets and liabilities to the concerned Speaker (Lok Sabha) or Chairman (Rajya Sabha). The Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee maintains a register of these interests (no such register exists for Lok Sabha MPs).  Details in the Register of Members’ Interests include: remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy, and professional engagement.

This material, however, is not put in the public domain.

An interesting comparison is the Parliament of South Africa, where the Register of Members Interests’ (consisting of  MPs from both upper and lower house) is made public. Financial interests of MPs, remuneration from employment outside of Parliament, directorships, consultancies, property details, pensions, etc., are all made public (see latest register here).

The right to petition Parliament

December 15th, 2010 3 comments

What is petitioning?

Petitioning is a formal process that involves sending a written appeal to Parliament. The public can petition Parliament to make MPs aware of their opinion and/ or to request action.

Who petitions and how?

Anyone can petition Parliament. The only requirement is that petitions be submitted in the prescribed format, in either Hindi or English, and signed by the petitioner.

In the case of Lok Sabha, the petition is normally required to be countersigned by an MP. According to the Rules of Lok Sabha, “This practice is based on the principle that petitions are normally presented by members in their capacity as elected representatives of the people, and that they have to take full responsibility for the statements made therein and answer questions on them in the House, if any, are raised.”

Petitions can be sent to either House in respect of:

  • Any Bills/ other matters that are pending before the House
  • Any matter of general public interest relating to the work of the Central Government

The petition should not raise matters that are currently sub-judice or for which remedy is already available under an existing law of the Central Government.

Petition formats can be accessed at: Lok SabhaRajya Sabha

What happens to the petition once it has been submitted?

Once submitted, the petition may either be tabled in the House or presented by an MP on behalf of the petitioner. These are then examined by the Committee on Petitions.

The Committee may choose to circulate the petition and undertake consultations before presenting its report (For instance, the Petition praying for development of Railway network in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan States). It may also invite comments from the concerned Ministries. The recommendations of the Committee are then presented in the form of a report to the House.

Previous reports can be accessed at the relevant committee pages on the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha websites.

Defections in Parliament

February 8th, 2010 1 comment

In the late 1960s and 70s, defections (elected legislators changing parties after the election) in Parliament and State Legislatures became very frequent, so frequent in fact, that the epithet “Aaya Ram Gaya Ram” was coined to describe the same.  To curb this problem which created instability in our legislatures, Parliament amended the Constitution.  They inserted the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution “to curb the evil of political defections”.  As a result, we currently have an anti-defection law with the following features:

1.  If an MP/MLA who belongs to a political party voluntarily resigns from his party or, disobeys the party “whip” (a direction given by the party to all MPs/ MLAs to vote in a certain manner), he is disqualified.   The party may however condone the MP/ MLA within 15 days.

2.  An independent MP/ MLA cannot join a political party after the election.

3.  An MP/ MLA who is nominated (to the Rajya Sabha or upper houses in state legislatures) can only join a party within 6 months of his election.

4.  Mergers of well-defined groups of individuals or political parties are exempted from disqualification if certain conditions are met.

5.  The decision to disqualify is taken by the Speaker/ Chairman of the House.

The table below summarizes provisions of anti-defection law in some other countries.  (For more, click here).  As one may note, a number of developed countries do not have any law to regulate defection.

Regulation of defection in some countries

Country Experi-ence Law on defection The Law on Defection
Bangladesh Yes Yes The Constitution says a member shall vacate his seat if he resigns from or votes against the directions given by his party.  The dispute is referred by the Speaker to the Election Commission.
Kenya Yes Yes The Constitution states that a member who resigns from his party has to vacate his seat.  The decision is by the Speaker, and the member may appeal to the High Court.
Singapore Yes Yes Constitution says a member must vacate his seat if he resigns, or is expelled from his party.  Article 48 states that Parliament decides on any question relating to the disqualification of a member.
South Africa Yes Yes The Constitution provides that a member loses membership of the Parliament if he ceases to be a member of the party that nominated him.
Australia Yes No
Canada Yes No
France Yes No
Germany Yes No
Malaysia Yes No
United Kingdom Yes No