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Supreme Court to check lawmakers’ shares in govt contracts

The apex court wants to examine a crucial question as to whether lawmakers can be allowed to have a share in a company entering into a contract with the government.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2016 00:49 IST
Supreme Court,J Chelameswar,AM Sapre
The Supreme Court complex in New Delhi.(HT file photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday said that it wants to examine a crucial question as to whether lawmakers can be allowed to have a share in a company entering into a contract with the government.

A bench of justice J Chelameswar and justice AM Sapre asked Lucknow-based SN Shukla to give his suggestions on incorporating a repealed section that disqualified parliamentarians and legislators even if they had one per cent share in a government contract. The provision was removed in 1951.

“You know how many people have contracts in the government? This is something which we should be worried about….This is something that seriously needs to be looked into,” the bench told Shukla who, on behalf of his NGO, has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a direction to make it mandatory for candidates fighting elections to disclose the source of their income. At present, they are required to disclose their assets and those of their family members.

Shukla told the court that the electorate should be made aware of who it is voting for. The income earned by a candidate must be commensurate to the known sources of his income.

Shukla argued that 113 of the 545 sitting Lok Sabha MPs are either housewives, social workers or politicians. “If this is their occupation, then how has their income increased by five times in the past five years?” he said.

Keen to expand the scope of his petition, the bench told the petitioner that merely creating another column (for the declaration of the source of the income). “People borrow crores of rupees, become MPs, and then fly away when something goes wrong,” justice Chelameswar said in an apparent reference to business tycoon Vijay Mallya, who left India.

The bench indicated that there is no bar on lawmakers having shares in government contracts and there is no check or mechanism to detect those shares or interests. “We need to know how their income increases,” the bench said, fixing July 18 to hear the case..

Winds of change?

March 2003 - SC rules that a voter has a fundamental right to know candidates’ qualifications, assets, liabilities and criminal antecedents, if any

July 5, 2013 - SC rules freebies promised by parties in manifestos vitiate the electoral process

July 10, 2013 - SC rules an MP/MLA convicted of any offence attracting a punishment of two years or above will be disqualified immediately. The court declared unconstitutional Section 8(4) of Representation of People Act that allowed a convicted MP/MLA to continue in office if he/she appealed in a higher court within 3 months of conviction

Sept 13, 2013 - SC rules knowledge of candidate is voter’s natural right, non- disclosure of information in affidavit will result in rejection of nomination

Sept 27, 2013 - SC empowers voters by giving NOTA option

March 10, 2014 - SC sets one-year deadline for lower courts to complete trial in cases involving MPs and MLAs; orders day-to-day trial in such cases

Feb 5, 2015 - SC rules a candidate’s election can be declared “null and void” for non-disclosure of criminal antecedents.

First Published: Jul 05, 2016 00:48 IST