‘MPs, MLAs have no duties and responsibilities’

The Times of India, April 15, 2011

NEW DELHI: What are the duties and responsibilities of members of Parliament and state legislative assemblies? Actually nothing!

A series of RTI queries filed with the central government and state assemblies show that there are no duties and responsibilities for elected representatives of the people. The only exception may be Sikkim, where the assembly has rules of procedure “specifying the duties (and) responsibilities of MLAs towards the august House being public representatives” and it would be their “prime duty to maintain communal harmony and peace among the people”.

On February 2, 2009, an RTI application was filed by activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya with the Election Commission seeking details of duties, responsibilities and accountability of MPs and MLAs. The commission replied that it was “not concerned with information sought” and it had no such information. On an appeal, the commission’s appellate authority ruled that the query should have been transferred to the ministry of parliamentary affairs and ministry of law and justice.

Lok Sabha secretariat said on June 3, 2009 that there was “no provision either in the Constitution or the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha defining duties and responsibilities of members of Parliament or through which the accountability can be fixed on non-performing MPs”.

The Lok Sabha secretariat quoted Article 99 of the Constitution, to say that the members have to “make and subscribe before the President or some person appointed in that behalf by him, an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule”. The person appointed by the President is the protem speaker, who takes oath from the President in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Protem speaker also signs the roll of members in the House.

The Bihar assembly also believes that “there is no provision/rule through which the duties, responsibilities and accountabilities of MLAs are fixed”. And there was “no provision in the law through which accountability can be fixed” on non-performing MLAs, it said. West Bengal assembly’s public information officer said they too didn’t have any specific rules “through which the responsibility and accountability can be fixed”.

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