Mere allegation of misuse of funds by some MPs in itself may not be a ground for scrapping it
The Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme, under which every MP is allotted Rs. 2 crore a year for constituency development, was intra vires the Constitution.
“A mere allegation of misuse of the funds by some MPs in itself may not be a ground for scrapping of the scheme as checks and safeguards have been provided,” said a Constitution Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran, D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal.
Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The information furnished shows that the scheme has benefited the local community by meeting its various developmental needs such as drinking water facility, education, electricity, health and family welfare, irrigation, non-conventional energy, community centres, public libraries, bus stands, roads, pathways, bridges and sports infrastructure. Parliament has the power to enquire and take appropriate action against erring members. Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have set up standing committees to monitor the works.”
On the contention that spending of monies on various projects had to be separately provided for by law, the Bench said: “If the Union government intends to spend money for a public purpose and for implementing various welfare schemes, the same is permitted by presenting an Appropriation Bill, which is a Money Bill, and by laying the same before the Houses and after getting the approval of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, in particular, it becomes law and there cannot be any impediment to implementing the same so long as the scheme is for the public purpose.”
The Bench said: “Clearly, the MPLAD scheme does not give carte blanche to the MPs with respect to the kind of works they can recommend. The scheme falls within the meaning of ‘public purpose' aimed at fulfilment of the development and welfare of the State as reflected in the Directive Principles of State Policy. ‘Laws' mentioned in Article 282 would also include Appropriation Acts. A specific or special law need not be enacted by Parliament to resort to the provision. Thus, the MPLAD Scheme is valid as Appropriation Acts have been duly passed year after year.”
Checks & balances intact
The Bench said: “Even though MPs have been given a seemingly executive function, their role is limited to ‘recommending' works and the actual implementation is done by local authorities. There is no removal of checks and balances since these are duly provided and have to be strictly adhered to under the guidelines of the scheme and Parliament. Therefore, the scheme does not violate separation of powers.”
Further, “panchayat raj institutions, municipal as well as local bodies have not been denuded of their role or jurisdiction as due place has been accorded to them by the guidelines in the implementation of the scheme.”
The Bench said: “The court can strike down a law or scheme only on the basis of its vires or unconstitutionality but not on the basis of its viability. When a regime of accountability is available in the scheme, it is not proper for the court to strike it down, unless it violates any constitutional principle.
In the present IMLAD Scheme, an accountability regime has been provided. Efforts must be made to make the regime more robust, but in its current form, it cannot be struck down as unconstitutional. The scheme does not result in an unfair advantage to the sitting members of Parliament and does not amount to a corrupt practice.”
The Bench dismissed all writ petitions filed by Bhim Singh and others as well as transferred cases.