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The Rediff Special/George Iype in New Delhi
Tainted lawmakers have legal loophole
December 14, 2005
The big question in political circles now is: Can the 11 Members of Parliament who have been caught on camera accepting bribes for raising questions in Parliament be punished?
As per the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, any public servant taking bribe other than his legal remuneration can be punished with imprisonment ranging from six months to five years. According to the Act, MPs are also public servants.
But thanks to a particular clause, this stringent law may not be applicable to some of the lawmakers caught insulting the sanctity of the Indian Parliament.
The law says: 'No MP shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament.'
This legal escape route for the MPs is a Supreme Court ruling in the famous bribery case involving the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs and late prime minister P V Narasimha Rao. In a 1998 verdict, the apex court had said that MPs can invoke immunity as public servants if they have actually spoken in Parliament in consideration for the money they have taken.
So, will M K Anna Patil, the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Erandol, Maharashtra, who allegedly took Rs 45,000 and raised questions in Parliament for which he took the money, be punished?
No. Because as per the Act, he cannot be.
But Patil and the other 10 tainted parliamentarians cannot evade parliamentary punishment.
The Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha have the authority to take any decision -- including suspension and disqualification -- about the MPs.
"Yes, we have the powers to recommend that the MPs who have been caught on tape taking bribes be disqualified. We will announce the decision by December 23," Congress MP Pawan Bansal, who is heading the special Lok Sabha probe committee, told rediff.com.
With Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee taking urgent steps to probe the MPs' conduct, and declaring that he will announce the decision by December 23, it is almost certain that the MPs will be disqualified.
"It looks that all the 11 MPs will lose their seats. Or else, the credibility of our Parliament will be in question," a Congress leader pointed out.
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