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    Rabble Rousing Random Ramblings by S Jagadish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

    March 29, 2006

    The brouhaha over Rajya Sabha seats and offices of profit

    I've noticed a lot of heated discussions on news channels and newspapers about how businessmen are now entering the Rajya Sabha and how that is a bad thing. I can't quite see what is wrong with it. If ministers (Shivraj Patil, Arjun Singh etc.) and former ministers (Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj etc.) can enter Parliament through the Rajya Sabha after losing in the Lok Sabha elections, why not businessmen? If doctors, lawyers, artists can find a place in the Rajya Sabha, why not businessmen?

    Given that the Representation of Peoples' Act was changed by the NDA Govt. such that Rajya Sabha members no longer need to be resident in the state from where they're nominated from, the sanctity of the Upper House had been violated anyway. So why not allow businessmen, who have as much a stake in the country as failed politicians, criminals, doctors, lawyers, musicians, sportsmen etc. to be a part of the House?

    I'd written something on similar lines almost two years ago after reading a Kuldip Nayar column on a related issue. His column can no longer be found on the Indian Express site, but if I remember right, he talked about political parties using the Rajya Sabha to ensure that ministers (who had not been elected yet) would keep their Parliament seats.

    As for the other burning controversy over the office of profit, the union government is currently pondering legislation with retrospective effect to ensure that the posts over which there is controversy about whether they are 'offices of profit' or not will no longer be considered as posts qualifying as offices of profit. I dashed off the following letter to 'The Hindu'. Given some of the inflammatory contents, I'm not surprised it hasn't been published yet.

    Any attempt to bring in more posts under the category of those exempted under the 'office of profit' clause is just another way of legislators ensuring that they continue to stay beyond the reach of the law, by changing the law.

    A law which empowers a Joint Parliamentary Committee, rather than the Election Commission, to decide on violations of the 'office of profit' criterion is merely a way for elected legislators to scratch each other's backs. It is akin to jailed criminals insisting that their plea be heard by a jury consisting of other criminals in the jail. Perhaps the wrong analogy, but you get the point!

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