ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Loaves of Office

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY Loaves of Office Members of Parliament have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the public eye when the two houses reconvene next week to discuss the office of profit issue. The unseemly manner in which the budget session was hastily adjourned at the end of March, the related and fortunately aborted attempt by the United Progressive Alliance government to issue an ordinance that would have protected Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi from possible disqualification and the alarm that almost all political parties expressed about the likely threat to many of their MPs, showed the legislature and the executive at their worst. A legislator stands outside the executive and it is therefore necessary that she does not occupy a position that could make her indebted to the executive and create a conflict of interest. While this is the basic principle underlying the constitutional bar on legislators holding an office of profit, such an office does not have to be one that provides a regular salary. If the holder of an office can exercise executive powers, take decisions on distribution of government funds and confer patronage, then that is clearly an office of profit. The principles are clear enough but if yet there is ambiguity, it is because there is no clear definition in law or practice. Article 102(1) of the Constitution prohibits an elected representative from holding an office of profit, but does not define what such an office is. There is also no law which specifies the criteria of such an office. The Prevention of Disqualification Act of 1959 only lists the offices that do not disqualify the holders from membership of Parliament

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