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Defined: What is an Office of Profit
February 13, 2007 16:59 IST
The Administrative Reforms Commission has held that all offices involving executive decision-making and control of public funds shall be treated as offices of profit and no legislator shall hold such offices.
However, all offices in purely advisory bodies where the experience, insights and expertise of a legislator would be inputs in governmental policy, shall not be treated as OoP, irrespective of the remuneration and perks associated with it, the 263-page report on "Ethics in Governance" said.
While recommending that the law should be amended to define OoP, the Commission said if a minister is a member or head of certain organisations like the Planning Commission, where close coordination with the Council of Ministers is vital for the day-to-day functioning of the government, it shall not be treated as OoP.
The ARC recommendation came in the backdrop of disqualification of a Samajwadi Party member from Rajya Sabha Jaya Bachchan and resignation of Congress President Sonia Gandhi from Lok Sabha on the ground of holding offices of profit.
The OoP issue had raised a storm in Parliament last year with a large number of such cases referred by the President to the Election Commssion seeking its opinion.
The report said the Constitution has laid down that legislators would be disqualified for being chosen as a member of the legislature if they were to hold any office of profit under the government other than an office declared by the legislature by law not to disqualify its holder.
"The underlying idea was to obviate a conflict of interest between the duties of office and their legislative functions," it said.
It said the principle can be traced to developments in British constitutional history in the course of which it came to be established that the Crown and its officers shall have no say in Parliament.
"The Constitution makers quite rightly wanted the legislative office to be insulated from executive influence and manipulation," the report said. It explained that if legislators were beholden to the executive, the legislature can no longer retain its independence and loses the ability to control the Council of Ministers and the army of officials and public servants.
"From this perspective, the Constitutional embargo on office of profit for legislators is both necessary and welcome," the panel felt. Pointing out that laws have been enacted exempting offices from disqualification to protect holders of certain offices from time to time, it said each time a legislator is appointed by the executive to an office which might be classified an office of profit, a law is enacted including that office in the list of exempted categories.Amidst a raging controversy over the issue, a similar legislation was passed by Parliament last year.