Political corruption

SC asks Centre for a mechanism to investigate MPs, MLAs whose assets have suddenly increased

The apex court said that lawmakers who face investigation for possessing disproportionate wealth always return to power.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday told the government that it should install a mechanism to conduct an inquiry once investigations by the Income Tax department reveal a sudden spurt in the assets of MPs and MLAs, The Hindu reported. “If an MPs or MLAs assets have risen tenfold in 2019 from what he revealed in 2014, should you not conduct an inquiry into the very propriety of a person holding public office,” Justice Chelameswar asked Attorney General KK Venugopal.

The court dismissed the attorney general’s assertion that law enforcement agencies take action against the lawmakers. “In the past 25 to 30 years, we have seen investigative agencies take no action against such MLAs and MPs,” Chelameswar observed. “They tend to get back to their same positions. Is it not time to do more?” The Supreme Court said that MPs and MLAs who face investigations for possessing disproportionate wealth always return to power.

The court asked why the income tax details of MLAs and MPs were not open to the public. “Why should information relating to the representatives of the people, who are public servants, get immunity?” the court questioned. Justice Chelameswar also rejected Venugopal’s assertion that the MPs and MLAs would claim discrimination if their I-T returns were made public. “Should they form a class within a class?” the court asked.

The I-T department had on Monday told the Supreme Court that it was investigating seven Lok Sabha MPs and 98 state lawmakers for “substantial increases” in assets. The Central Board of Direct Taxes said it will give the bench the names of these parliamentarians and MLAs in a sealed cover on Tuesday. However, it is not known whether the board submitted the envelope to the court.

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