Apex court lauds rationale, doubts efficacy of MP area scheme

November 20th, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday appreciated the rationale behind the scheme of funding development projects through parliamentarians in their constituencies but doubted its efficacy due to corruption.A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan was hearing arguments on the continuation of the 15-year-old scheme that provides Rs.15.86 billion annually to fund developmental activities in the constituencies of all the 793 MPs.

While examining the legality of the scheme on a bunch of lawsuits by Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh and various other individuals and civil rights groups, the bench approved of the rationale behind the scheme, saying it gives the parliamentarians some “discretion” in supplementing developmental activities in their areas.

But the bench, which also included Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal, doubted the scheme’s efficacy.

“Whether they (the parliamentarians) have the discretion or not is a different matter,” the bench observed. “There may be corruption also (in its implementation).”

But the court appeared inclined to continue the scheme. It noted that the funds from what is known as the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) do not go to the MPs directly but are routed through the district collectors, who have the authority to axe an MP’s proposal to utilise the fund in a particular manner.

“The fund goes to the collectors only. And the scheme is only recommendatory. The district collector has the authority to reject the recommendation of the MP,” said the bench.

It, however, added: “In practice, what happens may be completely different.”

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, who opened his arguments Wednesday pointing out “illegalities” in the scheme, continued opposing the scheme. He reiterated that the scheme goes against the provisions of the constitution.

Referring to the constitutional provisions that bar the government from spending a single paisa from the public exchequer without the due budgetary mandate of parliament, Venugopal Wednesday asserted before the bench that the government cannot even make a law to back the developmental funds for the parliamentarians.

He explained to the bench that the constitution lays down a definite method for the government to spend any money from the public exchequer, but the expenditure under MPLADS is not covered by any constitutional scheme.

Venugopal noted that the scheme, launched in 1993-94, had already consumed a staggering sum from the public exchequer in the past 15 years.

Initially the scheme permitted a grant of Rs.500,000 to each MP. But in the very next year of its implementation in 1994-95, the amount was increased to Rs.10 million, and in 1997-98 it was again raised to Rs.20 million. He said a proposal was now underway to increase this to Rs.50 million.

The bench would resume hearing of the matter Tuesday next week.

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