SC reserves verdict on plea to scrap former MPs' pension

SC reserves verdict on plea to scrap former MPs' pension

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a plea seeking to scrap the lifelong pension to former MPs, including the family pension, saying it cannot be described as "discriminatory".

The court was hearing a petition by NGO Lok Prahari that said that 82 per cent of the lawmakers were "crorepatis" and "the poor tax payers should not be made to bear the burden of their pension, including their family pension".

Stating that this was not an ideal state of affairs, a bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said they could not go into this aspect. "We agree this is not an ideal state. But we can't go into it."

As petitioner for the NGO in its rejoinder arguments sought to underline the point that people were being taxed to pay the former MPs, Justice Chelameswar said: "Let us take statistics. How many former bureaucrats are crorepatis? Should their pension be discontinued?"

Referring to the offices of the Election Commissioners, Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the MPs, the court said their conditions of working were different and they can't be equated with others getting pension after putting in life-long service.

"You can't make all pensioners one class", the court said, brushing aside the plea by S.N. Shukla representing Lok Prahari that grant of pension to former lawmakers violated the citizens right of equality before law guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

A former senior bureaucrat, Shukla is General Secretary of the NGO. He argued the matter in person.

Shukla said that pension has been discontinued even for the government employees.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal defended the grant of pension to former MPs, saying their dignity had to be maintained. He also defended the provision of travelling allowance to them, saying they have to travel to their constituencies.

As Shukla told the bench that in no other democracy the lawmakers were getting post-retirement benefits, Justice Chelameswar wondered if there was any democracy where such questions were decided by the courts.

Pressing his point, Shukla said to "amend a law for the benefit of some persons can't be reasonable" and that it disturbs the level playing field for free and fair elections.

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