- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Code of Conduct for MPs and MLAs
What to study?
For prelims and mains: COC for Politicians- Need, previous efforts in this regard, challenges and significance.
Context: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has sought a consensus on a Code of Conduct for MPs and MLAs. This has been a longstanding concern — progress has been slow and uneven, however.
A Code of Conduct for members of Rajya Sabha has been in force since 2005; there is no such code for Lok Sabha.
- Code of conduct for high constitutional functionaries and representatives of the people have been discussed for long. A code for Union ministers was adopted in 1964, and state governments were advised to adopt it as well.
- A conference of Chief Justices in 1999 resolved to adopt a code of conduct for judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts — this 15-point ‘Re-instatement of Values in Judicial Life’ recommended that serving judges should maintain an air of “aloofness” in their official and personal lives.
- In the case of MPs, the first step was the constitution of Parliamentary Standing Committees on Ethics in both Houses. The Committee in Rajya Sabha was inaugurated by Chairman K R Narayanan on May 30, 1997 “to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of the Members and to examine the cases referred to it with reference to ethical and other misconduct of Members”.
Why do We Need a Code of Conduct For Politicians?
Elections in India are often remembered for personal attacks, snide remarks and hate speeches made at the expense of taking political discourse to its nadir.
In a bid to assert their superiority over the rest, some political leaders go overboard and blur the line between public and private lives. Some even threaten voters with dire consequences if they are not voted to power.
Therefore, to ensure civility in political speeches and expressions, establishing code of conduct for politicians is mandatory.
In short, Code of Conduct for Politicians is needed mainly because of the following reasons:
- The politicians representing their constituencies in the Parliament have time and again brought ill-repute to the institution with their incivility.
- Creating ruckus in the Parliament; making unacceptable remarks and disrupting the House proceedings are some of the major allegations they face.
- Tenure of some of the politicians is also fraught with severe charges of impropriety.
- It has been long since a parliamentary panel had recommended a 14-point code of conduct that somewhat outlines what’s expected from the politicians.
- Prohibit MPs from misusing the power and immunities they get.
- An MP should avoid conflict between a private and a public interest.
- No parliamentarian should be allowed to vote on those questions in the House, in which he/she has a vested interest.
- Amend the Constitution to ensure a minimum of 110 days of sitting in a legislature having more than 100 members, and 90-50 days of sitting in Houses with less than 100 members depending on the size of the State involved.
- The filing by legislators of a statement of income, assets and liabilities, and an indication of changes in these figures over time.
- Punishment of members by admonition, reprimand, censure or withdrawal from the House in case of violations or breach of the code of conduct.
- Automatic suspension from the House of any member involved in offences of grave misconduct.
Need of the hour:
There’s a lot more that the Election Commission ought to do to make it difficult for the errant politicians. Its responsibility doesn’t ends with the filing of an FIR against a candidate who is violating code of conduct. It should direct political parties to withdraw such candidates.
Stronger actions such as derecognizing political parties and other powers need to be exercised for the larger interest of the democracy.
A code of conduct for legislators is absolutely essential at this point of time, when coalition Governments mean increasing and more intense activity within the walls of the legislatures.
- In the UK, a code of conduct for MPs was “prepared pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 19 July 1995”.
- The Canadian House of Commons has a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with powers to examine violations of the Conflict of Interest Code at the request of another Member or by Resolution of the House or on his own initiative.
- Germany has had a Code of Conduct for members of the Bundestag since 1972.
- The US has had a Code since 1968.
- Pakistan has a Code of Conduct for members of the Senate.
Mains Question: “Political parties must evolve a consensus on the code of conduct for their members both inside the Parliament and out of it, otherwise, people might soon lose faith in our political processes and institutions.” Comment.