Special Correspondent

“Why should the issue be left to the next Lok Sabha”Parties unanimous on the need for new mechanism: Speaker

NEW DELHI: India is perhaps the only democratic country where members of Parliament have to regularly decide to increase their own pay and perquisites. This form of indignity should not be heaped on them. Instead, there should be a separate mechanism to decide what they should get by way of salary, according to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

He was replying to reporters who asked him about the Cabinet decision to leave the question of salaries and allowances for MPs to the next Lok Sabha.

“Laws are always passed by every Lok Sabha till the very end of its term. Why should this be left to the next Lok Sabha when there is complete unanimity among all parties, ruling and the Opposition, that a law should be enacted to set up a separate mechanism for MPs’ salaries and perquisites?”

Meeting in 2005

Mr. Chatterjee made it clear that when a meeting of party leaders was called by him in March 2005 and they agreed to his suggestion for a separate mechanism, the idea was not that something should be done immediately to increase the salaries of MPs.

“The view was that a separate mechanism be put in place. It was for the government to decide whether this should be a separate commission or the Pay Commission for government servants should be asked to also look at MPs’ salaries or some other mechanism should be set up. It was certainly not a suggestion for immediate increase in salaries of MPs.”

He pointed out that after the March 2005 meeting — the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House were also present — the “completely unanimous” view of the leaders was conveyed to the Prime Minister, to whom a copy of a parliamentary committee report on the subject was submitted. Mr. Chatterjee himself forwarded the committee report to him.

He felt that after this the government would bring in a Bill to do the needful. “But now it seems that it has been decided to leave it to the next Lok Sabha,” the Speaker said. He was hurt that he was not consulted.

“I had taken the initiative. Propriety demanded that the practice of MPs voting increases in their own salaries be done away with,” Mr. Chatterjee said.

He pointed out that MPs became the butt of media jibes every time they were forced to give themselves a pay hike. This should come to an end, he said.