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Office of profit: Panel mulls whether MPs can teach at universities

20th November, 2020 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Context: The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Office of Profit deliberated on whether a Parliamentarian can continue to teach at University and if this draws the provisions of “Office of Profit” rules.

  • So far, the committee has not taken any call on the issue.
  • Under the provisions of Article 102 (1) and Article 191 (1) of the Constitution, an MP or an MLA (or an MLC) is barred from holding any office of profit under the Central or State government.
  • The argument is that the lawmakers who hold the government accountable should not be susceptible to government influence by way of holding any post where they get salary or allowances from the government.
  • This law seeks to enforce a basic feature of the Constitution — the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.

What is an office of profit?

  • It is a position in the government, which cannot be held by an MLA or an MP.
  • The post can yield salaries, perquisites and other benefits.
  • The origin of this term can be found in the English Act of Settlement, 1701.
  • Under this law, "no person who has an office or place of profit under the King, or receives a pension from the Crown, shall be capable of serving as a member of the House of Commons."
  • This was instituted so that there wouldn't be any undue influence from the royal household in administrative affairs.

What do parliamentary secretaries do?

  • In the Westminster system, a parliamentary secretary is a Member of Parliament who assists a Minister in their duties.
  • Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers usually appoint parliamentary secretaries from their own parties.

Why should an MLA or an MP not hold an office of profit?

  • According to Articles 102(1)(a) and 191(1)(a) of the Constitution, an MP or MLA is barred from holding an office of profit as it can put them in a position to gain a financial benefit.
  • "A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament, (a) if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder," says the law.
  • Under the Representation of People Act too, holding an office of profit is grounds for disqualification.