The Supreme Court Thursday upheld the validity of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) saying it was for public good, but felt its working could be improved.
The court said the scheme was not unconstitutional and there was no reason to scrap it over allegations of misuse of funds.
A five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran, D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal said: “We hold the MPLAD scheme is valid. We have no reason to interfere.”
“The mere allegations of misuse of funds under the scheme was not enough to scrape it,” the court said, adding: “Improvement can be made in the working of the scheme and there is no need for interfering with it.”
“No restrictions could be imposed on the scope and functioning of the scheme,” it said.
The court rejected the contention of petitioner Bhim Singh, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, that the scheme gave an unfair advantage to a sitting member of parliament vis-Ã -vis his rival.
Going into the constitutional validly of the scheme, the judgment, written by Justice Sathasivam, said: “If the central government wants to spend money for public purposes the same can be done.”
The matter, referred to the Constitution Bench by a three-judge bench, also involved the petitioner’s objection over the transfer of funds to MPs from the central government.
“If the Lok Sabha sanctions it, there can be no impediment to the allotment of such funds,” it said.
On the question of accountability of the MPs under the scheme, the court said that there were three layers of accountability.
First, the MPs were accountable to parliament. Second, they were bound by the guidelines and, third, the development projects implemented under the MPLADS were recorded in reports, it said.
Checks and balances exist in the form of committees of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the court said, adding that parliament can take action against any MP found guilty of misuse of funds.
The judgment said that there was no violation of the constitution as far as powers of various organs of democracy were concerned.
“The scheme of the constitution is violated if the function of one organ (of democracy) is taken over by the other,” it said.
In 1993-94, when the scheme was launched, an amount of Rs.500,000 annually per member of parliament was allotted, which became Rs.1 crore per annum from 1994-95. This was stepped up to Rs.2 crore from 1998-99.
As on March 30, a total of Rs.21,367.48 crore has been cumulatively sanctioned since the inception of the scheme. Of this, the expenditure incurred amounted to Rs.19,231.77 crore. The total utilisation, thus, stood at 91.7 percent.