President Ram Nath Kovind, on the recommendation of Election Commission of India (ECI), has disqualified 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs from Delhi, citing that each of them was holding an “office of profit”. This is supposed to be in the service of enforcing accountability of elected representatives.
The term “office of profit” refers to a position in government which yields a salary or some other form of material gain for the person holding that position. According to Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution, any member of Parliament (MP) or member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of a state is not allowed to hold an office of profit.
The reason for which MPs and MLAs are not allowed to hold offices of profit is explained in a Supreme Court judgement, which says:
“Both Articles 102(1)(a) and 191(1)(a) were incorporated with a view to eliminate or in any event reduce the risk of conflict between duty and interest amongst members of the legislature so as to ensure that the legislator concerned does not come under an obligation of the executive, on account of receiving pecuniary gain or benefit from it, which may render him amenable to the influence of the executive, while discharging his obligations as a legislator.”
What this means, in simple words, is that an MP or MLA is supposed to represent the people who elected him or her and not some vested interest due to monetary gain. The 20 Aam Aadmi party MLAs have been disqualified allegedly because they were profiting from their positions.
The logic underlying Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution is a total fraud because MPs and MLAs in the present system are accountable to their parties and not to those who elected them.
In the present political process, the executive is not accountable to the legislative body and the legislators are not accountable to the people who elected them.
While in theory, any MP or MLA can propose legislation, in practice only legislation proposed by the government are placed before parliament or the assembly. Many decisions which undermine the sovereignty of our country such as defence deals, trade and investment agreements, are taken by the executive without even consulting the legislators.
The so-called people’s representatives go to the people only during the election campaign. Once voted to power, they do not render account to the people. They are not even accessible to them. They are bound by the whip issued by the party which gave them the ticket.
The farce of disqualification of people’s representatives hides the fact that the entire political process is designed to deprive people of decision-making power. The executive, legislative and judicial arms of the State are not independent of the interest of the ruling class.
Ministers, legislators and judges, who are supposed to be servants of the people, enjoy all kinds of privileges and perks. In the main, they are financed by capitalist monopolies and do their bidding.
The real solution to the problem lies in a thorough overhaul of the entire system and political process. Sovereignty should reside in the hands of the people and not in the hands of the executive or legislature or any such exclusive body. The right to select the candidates for election should be in the hands of the people and not monopolized by registered electoral parties. People should have the right to recall those elected if they do not work for their collective interest. They should have the right to initiate legislation and to reformulate the Constitution when required.
The real reason for disqualifying 20 MLAs in Delhi has nothing to do with accountability of elected representatives to the electorate. It is one more arbitrary act of the party in power at the centre.