Being elected to Parliament is not enough. There are rules which govern its membership. If violated, it leads to disqualification. An MP can be disqualified if he or she holds an office of profit, like Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan recently was.
In 1950, MPs SK Patil and M Satyanarayana were serving on the Film Enquiry Committee set up by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. In addition to a travelling and daily allowance, they were paid a subsistence allowance. The question on whether they should be disqualified was referred to the President but by the time a decision could be taken, the disqualification attached to these offices was removed. In the more recent Jaya Bachchan case, the lady member had no such luck. She lost the membership of the Upper House on grounds of holding an office of profit as Chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Corporation.
However, disqualification can only be post an election. A petition against Legislative Council member Dr AL Mudaliar, was rejected by the Governor of Madras on the ground that he held an office of profit before his election. In Jaya Bachchan’s case, her contention that she had resigned before her election to Rajya Sabha but resumed the post without a salary post election attracted disqualification.
There are other grounds for disqualification. If it later transpires that an MP is not a citizen of India, he or she is liable for disqualification. In the event of a competent court declaring a member to be of unsound mind, he or she also stands disqualified. Ditto for one who is declared insolvent. Constitutional requirements apart, the election law also lists conditions for disqualification. These include, conviction, guilt in corrupt practices and failure to furnish election expenses.
The Anti-Defection Law, also known as the 52nd Constitutional Amendment, that came into effect on March 1985 also has provisions for disqualification under the 10th schedule. MPs who defect from their parent political party, vote or abstain from voting against the party’s directions can be disqualified.
The first case of disqualification of a member of the Lok Sabha was that of a Congress MP, Lalduhoma from Mizoram in 1988. Following a report of the Privileges Committee, the Speaker ruled that Lalduhoma stood disqualified for giving up the membership of his parent party, the Congress (I).
In the Eight Lok Sabha the Congress (S) Legislature Party had only four members. In November 1986, party president Sharad Pawar and Rajya Sabha member AG Kulkarni informed the Speaker about the expulsion of two Congress (S) members, KP Unnikrishnan and V Kishore Chandra S Deo from the party’s primary membership. Following a letter by the party’s provisional President revoking Unnikrishanan’s and Deo’s suspension, the Speaker decided to treat them as unattached members. This decision was challenged by Unnikrishnan. His contention: The Speaker was not empowered to declare unattached a member who was not only elected on a party symbol but also continued to be its member. In Bihar, a Janata Dal member, Mahtab Lal Singh was disqualified because he went against his party’s directive and abstained from voting.