M A I N   N E W S

LS code of conduct on assets of MPs never enforced
Former Secretary-General says Speaker can direct maintenance of register of interests
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 18
When the details of pecuniary interests of Rajya Sabha members became public for the first time yesterday, questions arose as to why a similar register of interests was not being maintained by the Lok Sabha which comprises elected representatives who are supposed to be more accountable to people.

Even as the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which accessed the Rajya Sabha information under RTI, was recently told by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s office that their request in the matter had been forwarded to Ethics Committee of the House for consideration, The Tribune has learnt that way back in 2008, the Lok Sabha had adopted a code of conduct which laid down guidelines for MPs to follow.

Registration and declaration of pecuniary interests was integral to that code laid down by the committee constituted by the then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on May 16, 2007 to inquire into misconduct of 14th Lok Sabha MPs. The committee, headed by veteran Congressman Kishore Chandra Deo, submitted its report to the Speaker on March 31, 2008 and the Lok Sabha unanimously adopted it on October 23 that very year. Lack of political initiative has however kept the report from being implemented.

The Tribune has accessed a copy of the crucial report which framed a code of conduct for LS members to follow.

The code stated, “Members shall fulfil consciously the requirements in respect of registration of their interests in the Register maintained for the purpose by the Secretariat and shall always draw attention to any relevant interest in any proceedings of the House or its committees or in any communication with Ministers, Government Departments or executive agencies.”

It further said that every member would furnish in the prescribed manner to the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha particulars of his pecuniary interests which would then be entered into the Register. The code went a step further to prescribe, “A member shall not vote on a question in the House or a Committee of the House in which he has a direct pecuniary or personal interest.”

Speaking exclusively to The Tribune today, Kishore Chandra Deo said, “The report was unanimously adopted by the Lok Sabha. Its implementation is merely a procedural matter. There should be no cause for delay in maintaining a Register of interests which we recommended three years ago.”

For instance, if the code were to be strictly enforced, Dayanidhi Maran, with stakes in television business, would not have been made the Communications Minister. The code even mandates MPs to arrange their private affairs so as to prevent conflict of interests from arising. It says, “While performing their parliamentary and public duties, Members shall avoid conflict between their private interest and public interest and resolve such a conflict, should it arise.

Former LS Secretary General PDT Achary, during whose tenure Deo submitted the said report, admitted to TNS that the register of interests must be maintained for transparency. “The code was adopted by the House. It is now up to the Speaker to take it forward. She may discuss the issue with political leaders and issue a direction for introducing the practice,” Achary said.

Lok Sabha had 156 crorepati MPs in 2004. The number doubled to 315 in 2009, making up 58 per cent of the strength of the House. In recent years, assets of LS MPs have been increasing by whopping extents, with accountability missing even though the LS, with absolute say in Money Bills, and by dint of being representative of the people, must exhibit greater transparency.





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