Should Member of Parliaments earn a premium for travelling?
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), a division bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of the Delhi High Court asked the Centre to explain "why extra allowances are allowed to MPs". A notice has been issued to the Cabinet Secretary, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha secretariats and the Ministry of Law and Justice to respond by January 23, 2013.
The petition was filed by B N P Singh, a retired Wing Commander and general secretary of civil society group 'Veteran's Forum for Transparency in Public Life'. The petitioner challenged some provisions of the Salary, Allowances, Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 and requested the court to squash them. All government servants get only the reimbursement of the expenses incurred by them on the travel while the MP’s get an extra amount of 25% on the actual expense incurred along with reimbursement of the actuals. The petition highlighted the anomaly that allows MPs to get a premium on travel expenses with the burden falling on the taxpayer and urged the HC to "quash some provisions of the Salary, Allowances, Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 and the rules made there under in this regard as being unconstitutional and ultra vires to the Constitution of India".
The petitioner argued that allowing the MPs to reimburse with more money than they actually spent is in gross violation of the legal and fundamental rights of the citizens of India and also the principles of performance with efficiency without corruption in public life. It was claimed that such extra amount was an unjust burden on the taxpayers, while being illegal, arbitrary, and discriminatory.
The petition cited RTI replies from both the Houses of Parliament which showed that some MPs availed air fare as travel allowance to visit their constituency even where there was no airport/ airfield. The petitioner requested the court to direct the government to audit TA and DA of the MPs of both Houses by CAG.