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MP sack ok but court can scan

New Delhi, Jan. 10: A potential flashpoint was defused today with the Supreme Court ruling that Parliament and legislatures have the power to expel members whose conduct “lowers the dignity of the House”.

The court, however, reserved the right to look into the validity of the action if any citizen, member or non-member, approached it saying his fundamental rights had been violated.

Upholding the sacking of MPs in the cash-for-questions scam, the court said the power to throw out members guilty of gross misdemeanour was “well within the limits of remedial contempt power” of the House.

The decision to uphold the expulsions is a rare occasion when the two arms of the government, known to share a history of skirmishes, are agreed on an issue.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said as much as he welcomed the order in Calcutta. “It is a milestone judgment. It reiterates the position that all organs of the state should act in harmony and not in a confrontationist manner.”

Chatterjee said the verdict would send a clear message that people’s representatives would not be spared if they indulge in corrupt practices.

“An MP should function as a role model and not do anything unbecoming of his or her position,” he said.

Eleven MPs were given the boot from Parliament in 2005 for demanding money to raise questions in the House. Another was expelled after being caught on camera asking for commission to award a contract under the MPs’ local area development scheme.

Upholding the expulsions, the court said: “It is not a capricious exercise of the House, but an action to protect its dignity before the people of the country… the power of expulsion is not contrary to a democratic process. It is rather part of the guarantee of a democratic process.”

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