Navjot Singh Sidhu , is undoubtedly one of India’s most prolific, and highly articulate TV personalites and cricketerers. His popular TV show with comedian Kapil Sharma titled ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ is hugely popular in India and abroad as well. Behind this high blitz TV Show, there is pouring of money too.
It is reported that Kapil Sharma charges anywhere between Rs 60 lakhs to Rs 80 lakhs per show and Sidhu is no way lagging behind. Sidhu ‘s annual income from TV and other commercials reportedly range between Rs 20 cr to 25 cr. When remunerations are running high, big bucks are pouring in , the obvious question would be ‘is it not office of profit”? Can Sidhu continue his high drama on Television after swearing in as a Punjab Minister of Tourism and Culture’?
The public perception would be, that this show is certainly an ‘office of profit” and hence Sidhu stands for disqualification under the relevant law, if he continues playing the celebrity judge role in the said TV show.
However, a surprise is in store. The relevant law dealing with such a situation is tricky and may exonerate Sidhu, without much ado. That is as far as ‘office of profit’ law is concerned. But it is highly likely, that he cannot escape from ‘the code of conduct’ for Minster’s is concerned.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has said “I don’t know what the Constitution says or the law is on this matter. We will have to ask our advocate general to give us an opinion whether a person who is a minister can do what he wants to do. It will entirely depend on what the legal opinion and then I will bring it to Navjot Singh Sidhu’s notice.”
We are aware that Navjot Singh Sidhu now a Minister of Tourism and Culture in the newly formed Congress Government in Punjab. And equally aware that he is a popular celebrity Judge in ‘Kapil Sharma Show’
Now the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and the Minister Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu both are in a fix, whether Mr Sidhu’s continuous participation in the hugely popular commercial show The Kapil Sharma Show’ amount to breach of ‘Office of profit’ law and face disqualification?
In the past Sonia Gandhi had to vacate her Lok Sabha seat in 2006, as she was simultaneously holding the post of Chairperson of NAC.
What does the law relating to ‘office of profit’ say?
Article 191(1) in The Constitution Of India 1949:
(1) A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State
(a) if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State specified in the First Schedule, other than an office declared by the Legislature of the State by law not to disqualify its holder
Article 102(1) in The Constitution of India 1949
(1) A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament
(a) if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder;
What is the concept behind this regulation?
Primarily the objective behind this, is to ensure separation of powers. A Parliamentary democracy mainly functions through three main wings. The Judiciary, Executive and Legislative wings. So, the legislators or the law makers, are expected to discharge their functions freely, with out being influenced by or conflict of interest by holding any office of profit, together.
However, articles 102 and 191 clarify that “a person shall not be deemed to hold an office of profit under the government of India or the government of any state by reason only that he is a Minister’
There is ample scope to misread this ‘exclusion’ proviso under Article 102 and 191. Some authors have already misconstrued it, saying ‘Ministers exempted’. It is not so. This proviso should not be construed as an immunity to Minister’s but plainly mean that, the very minister-ship itself cannot be considered as ‘an office of profit’.
Hence in this context Sidhu, now a Minister in Captain Amarinder Singh’s cabinet will not get any immunity from the risk of disqualification, but he is otherwise not liable for disqualification under Article 191 and 102.
Supreme Court has clarified In Article’s 102 and 191, it is clearly stated ‘any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any state’. Hence, it does imply that holding of any private assignment is outside the purview of this restrictions. Apropos to mention here, how rational it would be to think only the positions of office of profit held under Government of India is objectionable but not a highly commercial private engagement?
It’s because only a Government functionary can influence any legislation of the same Government, if he holds an office of profit.
It is also in agreement now, remuneration need not necessarily in the form of cash, or other perks. A job in an office of profit’ even without pay and perks, can still be considered an office of profit, as it all depends up on the authority which appointed the person, and it’s objectives etc.
Hence to sum up the gist of what Supreme Court ‘s view is:
The government that makes the appointment, has the right to remove or dismiss the holder
It is possible the authors of the Constitution, mindfully defined only Government assignments as ‘office of profit’ but not private assignments, as there is no scope to influence the Government policies and decisions when the law makers is engaged in a private stint.
Yet, in this modern age of dominance and influence of private entrepreneurs, nothing can be excluded but need to be reviewed.
Conduct of MP’s and MLA ‘s
But then elected representatives have to abide by the code of conduct for union and state Ministers.
Para 2 (c) of the code of conduct for ministers reads, “After taking office, and so long as he remains in office, the Minister shall: refrain from starting, or joining, any business.”
Also every Rajya Sabha MP has to declare his or her interest (along with assets and liabilities). He has to declare five pecuniary interests: remunerative directorship, remunerated activity, majority shareholding, paid consultancy and professional engagement. Sidhu was a Rajya Sabha MP now a state Minister.
So the code of conduct is abundantly clear and no room for handy interpretations to bail out Sidhu.
Hence it is likely the Minister Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu will be restrained from participating in the commercial TV shows hence after, by the CM Captain Amarinder Singh to keep up the code of conduct for Ministers , in order to upkeep the stature of a Minister. Otherwise it will be embarrassing for both the Government and general public to watch the Minister cracking crazy jokes, using jargon vocabulary in open.
The Joint Parliamentary panel should force the Law Ministry to come up with another comprehensive Bill to settle this issue for ever. By the time I was concluding this write up, the breaking news is that:
Navjot Sidhu Gets Legal Go-Ahead For TV Shows, ‘No Conflict Of Interest’, Says Advocate General. A welcome decision by the Advocate General, yet Sidhu’s some statements is causing concern. Advocate General Atul Nanda has given green signal saying ‘there is no conflict of Interest’ and Sidhu can continue with his show on TV.
Sidhu quoted saying ‘My voters have no problem with my TV shows…what I do from 7 pm to 6 am should not be somebody’s business”
This line of Sidhu is highly irresponsible, ill-informed, naive too. If that were to be the case, in the past, several corrupt and even convicted persons too were allowed to contest polls, and were elected too. That is in no way an endorsement of the people for their past corrupt practices.
We are sincerely happy that AG has cleared decks for Sidhu, though no clarity on code of conduct for Ministers was provided by the AG. It is accepted fact, that there are many such MP’s and MLA’s who are neck deep in to commercial activities outside, yet the need of the hour is, a bill covering this burning issue in comprehensive manner to be tabled in Parliament soon to put an end to this raging controversy.