The Office of Profit issue has once again become an issue of controversy in Indian politics. President Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to turn down Delhi government’s amendment to the Office of Profit Act, has put the fate of 21 MLAs in balance.
The Office of Profit issue came because these MLAs were appointed as parliamentary secretaries. Some argue that these MLAs stand disqualified automatically after the President rejected the amendment. Whether going to the court will help the AAP is a question that is not easy to answer since it involves lot of constitutional issues.
The Act forbids members of legislature from accepting an office of profit. This is made to ensure the independence of the legislature and to preserve the separation of powers between different arms of the government.
Article 102 (1) (A) of the Indian constitution bars a legislature from holding any office under Government of India or state governments other than an office declared by the Parliament not as disqualifying.
This is not the first time that the office of profit has cost a lawmaker his or her job.
In 2006 Jaya Bachan was disqualified from Rajya Sabha after it was found that she was occupying an office of profit. She was the chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council.
Then it was the turn of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. During UPA government, Sonia was the chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC).
Opposition parties complained to President APJ Abdul Kalam asking him to disqualify Sonia saying that office of NAC chairperson is an office of profit.
Congress argued that it was a purely advisory role and she did not receive any salary and perks. But as NAC chief, Sonia was accorded the status of cabinet minister.
After this snowballed into a controversy, Sonia resigned from Lok Sabha. She contested from Rai Berilly and got elected to Lok Sabha again.
In Uttar Pradesh two legislators Bajrang Bahadur Singh and Uma Shanker Singh were disqualified in 2015 because they were found holding office of profit.