CHENNAI: In a significant and perhaps the first-of-its-kind judgment, the Madras High Court has held that a legislator whose election has been declared null and void will have to return all emoluments received since day-one in the post.
Delivering the landmark judgment, Justice V Parthiban directed former Congress MLA P Veldurai — who was elected in 2006 and disqualified in 2011 by the Supreme Court — to refund within four weeks the Rs 21.58 lakh drawn by him as emoluments.
The judge also ordered the MLA to pay a penalty of Rs 500 per day for the 201 days he held the post, adding that there is a difference between salary drawn by a government employee and a legislator.
The court dismissed a writ petition filed by Veldurai in this regard.
Pursuant to his disqualification, effective from the first day of his assuming office as an MLA, as ordered by the Supreme Court later, the Assembly secretary in August 2011 issued a communication asking him to return all the emoluments he had received during the period between 2006 and 2011.
Veldurai filed the current writ petition challenging this, which was dismissed by Justice Parthiban on Tuesday. “No MLA or MP contests an election for the ‘salary’ on offer. The attendant benefits on becoming a member of the House may be attractive and worthwhile, but that could not be a reason for any candidate to stand in the election,” said the judge. “He has to represent and serve his constituency people. His representation is totally different and hence, the services of an MLA or MP and the emoluments received or paid to him, cannot be equated to salaries earned by a government employee. The two are different and distinct. Even the members of the House may not like to suggest that they became MLA or MP to ‘make a living’.”
“When the State has sought refund of the emoluments paid to the Member of the House, it is not a liability or penalty visiting the member within the meaning of Section 107 of the RP Act. The member, having been disqualified, is disqualified from day one of his election. In fact, his candidature itself is struck down. If so, he cannot and could not have become a member. That being so, then all the emoluments received by him as a member, is not legitimate sums in his hands,” said the court.
“It is not a liability or penalty imposed on him. Penalty in law is only and can only be `500 per day for the days he had attended as member of the House, as contemplated under Article 193 of the Constitution. The refund of the emoluments paid is not a liability or penalty imposed. A person who was not qualified to stand, got elected and by operation of law lost the status. If so, the attendant benefits stand withdrawn for all practical purposes,” the judge said. As regards the contention that there was inordinate delay, the judge said the justice delivery system cannot afford to expose itself to be outwitted by a wily litigant.