MPs' perks, a matter of concern

The Supreme Court has touched a raw nerve by questioning the “largesse” granted to Members of Parliament in terms of the ever-increasing salaries and perks without proper guidelines and by serving a notice on the Centre and other authorities on a plea for scrapping the pension and other facilities provided to them. The MPs immediately protested the court’s attempt at intervention and asserted their right to fix their own emoluments under the Salaries, Allowances and Pensions of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. It is a sensitive issue, and as the MPs do enjoy certain privileges as lawmakers, the court is not the right forum to decide on it. In fact, the Act has been amended 28 times so far, making periodic changes in the emoluments. The last amendment was made in 2010, and bowing to the persistent demand of MPs, the Narendra Modi government had constituted a joint parliamentary committee, whose recommendations are being considered by the government.

The MPs are aware that over the years, their salaries and perks have gone up substantially compared to the earnings of common people and there is general criticism of the practice of MPs rewarding themselves. Currently, an MP is paid every month a basic salary of Rs 50,000, constituency allowance of Rs 45,000, sumptuary allowance of Rs 15,000 and office expenditure of Rs 30,000. He/she also gets a daily allowance of Rs 2,000 when Parliament is in session, besides free, furnished accommodation with water, electricity and laundry expenses being paid. Additionally, they get free petrol, telephone charges, 34 complementary air tickets to themselves and their companions from their constituencies to New Delhi, and an unlimited free train travel by AC coaches anywhere in the country. A retired MP is entitled to Rs 20,000 pension per month, even if he has served for a day and an additional Rs 1,500 for every year beyond a full term. He also gets to travel free by train along with a companion for life and the pension gets transferred to spouse or a declared dependent after the MP’s death.
Not satisfied with these facilities, the parliamentary committee has recommended a hike in salary from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh and the constituency allowance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 90,000, besides increasing the pension to Rs 35,000 per month. Unable to either accept or reject the demand, the government has rightly mooted the idea of referring the matter to an independent three-member commission for making recommendations.

It will be the best move as the commission can ensure objectivity and the MPs will be spared of the charges of arbitrarily giving themselves the increases.

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