Controversy brings code of conduct for ministers into focus

Controversy brings code of conduct for ministers into focus

Controversy brings code of conduct for ministers into focus

The controversy surrounding Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra’s company bagging a contract from the state government to set up a superspecialty laboratory and diagnostics centre at Victoria Hospital has brought into focus the code of conduct for ministers.

The code issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs is applicable to both the union and state governments. The provisions of the code make it mandatory for all ministers to submit the details of their assets, liabilities and business interests to the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister, as the case may be, within two months.

It also has provisions on the conflict of interest by refraining a minister from starting or joining any new business after assuming office. There are restrictions on accepting contributions, gifts, awards, attending functions arranged by the foreign missions in India or abroad, among others.

Some of the provisions include the family members of the minister. What the Opposition has been claiming is there was a violation of Code 2 (e) with Yathindra’s company, Matrix Imaging Solutions India Private Limited, bagging the contract to set up a superspecialty laboratory at Victoria Hospital.

The code states that “after taking office, and so long as he remains in office, the minister shall ensure that the members of his family do not start, or participate in, business concerns, engaged in supplying goods or services to that government (excepting in the usual course of trade or business and at standard or market rates) or dependent primarily on grant of licences, permits, quotas, leases, from that government”.

However, Siddaramaiah’s supporters have taken shelter in the last para in the code, which offers an explanation to what comprise a minister’s family. The explanation states: “In this code, a minister’s family shall include his wife (or husband as the case may be) not legally separated from him, minor children and other persons related by blood or marriage to, and wholly dependent of the minister.”

Congress MLC V S Ugrappa said Yathindra was a professional, practising doctor getting fees for his services and not dependent on Siddaramaiah. Hence, the code of conduct does not apply to Yathindra or his company.

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