MPLADS comes under judicial scrutiny
The Supreme Court is examining the constitutional validity of the controversial Scheme.india Updated: Feb 16, 2006 20:45 IST
The MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) on Thursday came in for scrutiny before the Supreme Court which is examining the constitutional validity of the controversial Scheme.
The Scheme, under which each MP gets an amount of Rs two crore every year for development of his/her constituency, was recently hit by controversy after a TV channel sting operation showed certain MPs allegedly taking bribe to award contracts under it.
During arguments on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of MPLADS, Lok Sevak Sangh's counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that the Scheme was breeding corruption which was evident from the sting operation.
There was no accountability, no monitoring and the usual checks and balances applicable to Government expenditure was also not in place for the Scheme, he told a Bench of Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, Justice CK Thakker and Justice PK Balasubramanyan.
Bhushan particularly drew the court's attention to the amendment made in the Scheme in 2002 which allowed MPLADS funds to be given to private registered organisations, trusts and NGOs.
It was under this provision that trusts managed by Election Commissioner Navin Chawla's family received funds from several MPs, he pointed out.
He wondered how about Rs 5,000 crore could be spent every year on MPLADS, started in 1993, and similar schemes in various states without any accountability and monitoring.
He said the money could not be given to any private organisation of the MPs' choice as it would violate the mandate of Article 14 (Right to equality) of the Constitution.
Quoting the CAG report, Bhushan pointed out several shortcomings in the scheme and urged the court to declare it unconstitutional.
He said the wealth amassed by an MP by misappropriating the funds under the Scheme could give an unfair advantage to him/her in the next election over his/her rival candidates.
Even the Constitution Review Committee headed by former Chief Justice of India MN Vankatchalliah had recommended immediate discontinuation of the Scheme, he submitted.
Bhushan said in most of the cases there was no monitoring as the District Magistrates, who were supposed to look after the implementation of the Scheme, did not make any visit to the sites of the projects under MPLADS.
Appearing for another petitioner, Senior Counsel KK Venugopal termed MPLADS as unconstitutional, saying Parliament could not appropriate funds from Consolidated Fund of India except in accordance with Article 282 of the Constitution.
He said it was a peculiar kind of situation where there was no monitoring, no accountability and no criminal offence under Prevention of Corruption Act for the irregularities committed in the implementation of the Scheme.
On behalf of the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran said the flaws in the 2005 guidelines could rectified to improve the scheme.
Observing that it was only examining the constitutional validity of the Scheme as it existed today, the Bench posed several questions about lack of accountability and absence of checks and balances in the Scheme.