'From aaya ram gaya ram to horses', India still shining

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'India is still shining.' From the first 'aaya ram, gaya ram' to today's horses, trade hasn't changed. Party hoppers and horse traders are still ruling the roost in Indian Politics. Fifteen years ago Congress Prime Minister Narasimha Rao saved his government by bribing Opposition JMM MPs to reach the magic figure of 272.

Four JMM MPs Shailendra Mahato, Shibu Soren, Suraj Mandal and Simon Marandi had received bribes of Rs 50 lakh each for voting in favour of Rao's minority government in Parliament's monsoon session in July 1993.

On Tuesday, July 22, Politics again took an ugly turn when Bharatiya Janata Party MP Faggan Singh Kulaste alleged that senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh were involved in attempts to bribe him and two other BJP MPs to abstain from the 'trust vote' in the Lok Sabha, lower house of parliament. The incidents have marked a new downward spiral for the Indian politicians.

It was quite expected and such things should not surprise Indians any more. The only difference is that until now, we were reading and hearing about bribes being received or paid by politicians and now it is being show live on TV.

Though BJP brought evidence of 'horse trade' happened in to the House, they themselves emerged as the major losers in the entire events. The BJP led NDA are the major losers of horse trade as majority of the MPs who did cross voting and abstained from voting are found to be from NDA.

Massive cross voting and abstentions from the Opposition, especially the NDA, helped the government score a comfortable victory in the confidence vote in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, July 22, belying all predictions of a close contest. Main opposition BJP was the worst sufferer with 6 of its MPs voting in favour of the motion moved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Leader of the Opposition L K Advani himself admitted that 10 BJP MPs crossed over to the other side.

Almost all the other NDA constituents--BJD, JD(U), Shiv Sena and Akali Dal suffered from MPs, who defied their party whips.Cracks also developed in the TDP and JD(S) on account of cross voting. Apart from cross voting, 10 NDA MPs went missing from the House during voting.

It is sure that most of the MP's who have cross voted for UPA may have taken crores as bribes. BJP and CPI(M) have already come out with several allegations. Shibu Soren has been offered a ministerial berth in the cabinet. A number of MP's who have have cross voted for are also eagerly waiting for ministerial berths in the government. As far as the bribery allegation is concerned, if they are true, then both the bribe-giver and bribe-taker are equally guilty.

Now the question of the day!

Can an MP voting in favour of the trust motion for monetary considerations be prosecuted?

According to Article 105(2) of the Constitution: "No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings."

Article 105(2) is aimed at ensuring a MPs" "freedom of speech" and "right to vote" and giving them immunity from prosecution for anything said or any vote given in the House. But does it confer any immunity on an MP from being prosecuted in a criminal court for offer or acceptance of bribe?

The provision does not expressly cover the outside conduct of MPs. In fact, this is a kind of basic protection guaranteed to them in their official capacity and, ideally, it should not cover acts like taking bribe to vote in the House.(JMM bribery case ruling).

However, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the SC that considered this question in the JMM MPs bribery case gave a strange verdict that defies constitutional logic and political morality.

By a majority of 3:2, the court in April 1998 held that the MPs who voted against the July 28, 1993, no-confidence motion after taking bribe were entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution under Article 105(2) and could not be tried for bribery and criminal conspiracy.

But it held that those MPs who accepted the bribe but chose to abstain were liable to prosecution. Ruling that the MPs were "public servants" within the meaning of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, it held that the bribe-giving MPs were also liable to prosecution on corruption charges.

The SC's interpretation of Article 105(2) has become untenable after its 2007 verdict upholding Parliament's decision to expel about a dozen MPs involved in the "cash-for-query" scam. If an MP can be expelled from Parliament and prosecuted for taking bribe to ask a question in the House, why can't he/she be proceeded against in a court of law for taking money to vote in a particular manner in the House?

If such a situation arises, Parliament and Supreme Court will have to reinterpret Arcticle 105(2) and redefine the constitutional and political morality in view of the decisions in the "cash-for-query" scam and, of course, in the larger interest of democracy and rule of law.

Fifteen years after Rao saved his government by allegedly bribing Opposition MPs, now PM Manmohan Singh faces a similar situation.

2008, July 22, will remain to be a sad day for Indians across the world and is a shame for Indian Democracy, it is indeed a black mark on a nation that the world is pinning its hopes on for the future.

Even then Kudos to Manmohan Singh....Jo jeeta wahi sikandar!!!!!!!!!!!!

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