The Prime Minister’s Office has taken a legal opinion on the continuation of Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who ceases to be an MP from Friday.
In its opinion to the PMO, the law ministry said there is no need for Sharma to resign for the next six months, HT has learnt.
However, there is unease within the Congress on the issue.
A section of the party is of the view that Sharma should step down and take fresh oath as a minister on “ethical grounds”. They cite the example of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who resigned as commerce minister on July 8, 1993, after he failed to get elected as an MP within six months of being sworn in as a minister in February that year.
The law ministry is learnt to have cited Article 75 of the Constitution and a 1996 judgment of the Supreme Court upholding the appointment of former PM H.D. Deve Gowda to the post despite not being an MP.
“The Constitution is clear on a non-MP being a minister for six months,” a source said.
According to Article 75: “A minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of either House of Parliament shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a minister.”
There have been instances of Congress leaders whose terms as MPs ended but they continued as ministers. In UPA-I, Saifuddin Soz continued as water resources minister for three months after he ceased to be a Rajya Sabha MP in November 2008.
Officially, the party has maintained that “Sharma can continue”, but some senior leaders thought that “since the Constitution is silent on the continuation of a minister who ceases to be an MP, therefore it is time to set a new precedent”.
Sharma spoke on the issue in Helsinki on March 26, “This is the special prerogative of the Congress president and the prime Minister. Whatever decision they take, I will respect.”