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Chouhan?s offices of profit raise question

A MAJORITY of State?s ministers holding chairmanship in boards/ corporations/ banks may have weathered the ?office of profit? storm due to the Act passed in the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha in 1967. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh is, however, beyond the purview of the Act and hence his holding offices of profit has raised question mark in the legal fraternity, not to mention in the Opposition.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 14:40 IST

A MAJORITY of State’s ministers holding chairmanship in boards/ corporations/ banks may have weathered the ‘office of profit’ storm due to the Act passed in the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha in 1967. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh is, however, beyond the purview of the Act and hence his holding offices of profit has raised question mark in the legal fraternity, not to mention in the Opposition.  

The Chief Minister is still not member of the State Assembly. He is an MP and as such governed by the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959. The parliament’s budget session will resume from May 10 to discuss suitable amendments in the Act and define offices of profit.

The Chief Minister is heading some organisations like Madhya Pradesh Madhyam, State Planning Board, Madhya Pradesh Cow Protection and Animal Conservation Board, Madhya Pradesh Agency for Promotion of Information Technology, Madhya Pradesh Art Council, Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation Limited and Madhya Pradesh Council of Science and Technology (MAPCOST) as Chairman. 

Legal experts are of the opinion that they could also come under the preview of office of profit because the posts held by the Chief Minister do not find place in schedule of list of M P Vidhan Mandal Sadasya Nirharta Nivaran Adhiniyam 1967. When the Congress had raised objection to the Chief Minister holding offices of profit, the BJP cited the Act in defence of the CM. 

Some legal experts are of the view that the Chief Minister should have resigned from the Lok Sabha  soon after his election as the leader of BJP legislature party. Since he didn’t do that, he should at least desist from giving discretionary funds and retaining government accommodation both at New Delhi and Bhopal.

Former deputy speaker and constitutional expert, N P Shrivastava says that ex-officio posts being held by the Chief Minister have no mention in the schedule list prepared by the Vidhan Sabha.

“Concurrent lists of both the Union and State Governments should be prepared in such a manner as to avoid such situations”, he told Hindustan Times.

“As far as the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Mandal Sadasya Nirharta Nivaran Adhiniyam, 1967 and subsequent amendments in this Act are concerned, the Chief Minister can not avail their advantage because the Act is meant for members of the State legislature only”, opined leading advocate of the State, Ajay Mishra.

Another legal expert pointed out that the expression “office of profit” has not been defined either in the Constitution or in the Representation of People Act.

 “In common parlance, the expression ‘profit’ connotes an idea of some pecuniary gain. If there is really some gain, its label-’honorarium’-’remuneration’-’salary’ is not material- it is the substance and not the form which matters,” he added.

In the case of Dayanand Sahay & others v/s Shibu Soren, the double bench of Supreme Court comprising Justice R C Lahoti and Justice Shivaraj V Patil ruled that the State Legislature is not competent to effect any disqualification in respect of a Member of Parliament.

Shrivastava further advocated that the principle of ‘one person one post’ should be implemented strictly. Penal clause should be made to debar such persons from contesting election again.