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MPs' pay panel in PM court

PM has called a meeting of ministers to discuss constitution of a commission to restructure MPs' salary and allowances, report Vinod Sharma & Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2006 04:45 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a meeting of some senior ministers on Thursday to discuss setting up a Salary Commission to restructure the salary and allowances of MPs instead of allowing members to vote on their own pay packets.

The suggestion was mooted by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. The PM will discuss Chatterjee's proposals with Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also Leader of the Lok Sabha, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, among others. The matter may then be taken up with the Speaker.

In a letter last month -- May 27 -- the Speaker had urged the PM to consider as a "priority'' the matter of setting up an Independent Commission. It would, he said, save parliamentarians from public opprobrium that accompanies any action on their part to hike their own salaries, specially when Pay Commissions or Wage Boards decide on the pay packets of other categories of employees. He also pointed out that in other parliamentary democracies, MPs do not decide on the quantum of their pay packets.

The Government has, so far, not taken any view on the matter that was first posted for the PM's notice in 2005. After an all-party meeting in May, 2005 endorsed Chatterjee's idea of setting up an Independent Commission to decide on the members' salary in keeping with the practice followed by democratic countries, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs drafted a bill which was then vetted by the Law Ministry and placed before the Union Cabinet for consideration. But there was no word from the Government on the issue after that.

If the Government accepts the Speaker's suggestion, it will have to bring a draft bill to amend the Salary, Allowances and Pensions of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. Under the existing law, a Joint Parliamentary Committee recommends changes in MPs' salary and allowances, which is then placed before Parliament for approval.

The MPs' salaries and allowances were first hiked in 1969 from Rs 400 to Rs 500 along with an increase in the DA from Rs 30 to Rs 51. The last increase was in 1996-97 when a sub-group of the Members' Salary and Allowance Committee, under Mukherjee, appointed an IIM consultant. The formula that he evolved took into account the consumer price index-linked increase in salaries of Government employees since 1954. Consequently, the MPs pay jumped to Rs 12000 per month. Together with the constituency allowance and secretarial assistance, the package worked out between Rs 25,000-26,000.