NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to clarify its stand on setting up of an independent mechanism for determination of salaries and allowances of the Members of Parliament (MPs), which at present is fixed by the lawmakers themselves.
The government said the issue was "under consideration" and sought some time to clarify its stand, as a PIL on the matter has raised several questions including how the MPs can themselves determine their salaries and perks.
A bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul was hearing a plea filed by NGO 'Lok Prahari', which has also sought scrapping of pension and other perks to the MPs, and said it would examine the issues raised in the petition.
Senior advocate Ajit Kumar Sinha, representing the Centre, told the bench that the matter was under the consideration of the government and sought time to obtain instruction on the issue.
"Government of India's policy is very dynamic but it cannot change every day.
What is the government's view on this? You want it (independent mechanism), do not want it, you tell us," the bench told the Centre, adding, "what, as of now is the Union of India's stand and what is under consideration?".
However, the petitioner claimed that the issue was under consideration of the Centre for the last 11 years and they have not taken a decision over it yet.
During the hearing, the bench also referred to the landmark judgement delivered by the apex court on February 16 in which it had said that politicians, their spouses and dependents would have to declare their sources of income, along with their assets, for contesting elections.
The bench observed, "In the other matter (in which the apex court had delivered verdict), the government took a stand that each prayer made before us is in the realm of policy so it has to be done by Parliament and not by the court.
" "Going by newspaper reports, I have not come across any political party's reaction which said that the judgement is opposed," Justice Chelameswar said while referring to the February 16 judgement.
Sinha urged the bench to grant the "last opportunity" to the Centre to enable it clearly apprise the court about its stand.
"The petition has raised some ethical and some legal issues. His (petitioners) concern is that from 2006, it has remained unanswered," the bench observed, adding that the Centre's affidavit filed earlier in the matter does not reflect its stand over whether this independent mechanism is required.
At the fag end of hearing, the Centre's counsel said the issue raised in the plea was "important" and he would take instructions on it.
The bench noted in its order that the Centre's counsel has sought time to obtain instructions "as according to him there is a possibility of cutting short the controversy in question".
"This is moreso specifically in view of the stand that the question of setting up an independent mechanism for determination of salaries and allowances to Members of Parliament is under consideration and he would get requisite instructions by the said date on this aspect," it noted and posted the matter for hearing on March 6.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing the Election Commission of India (ECI) told the court that the poll panel should be deleted from the list of parties as the issue raised in the petition "effectively does not pertain" to it.
"You (ECI) can assist us," the bench said, adding, "we thought the ECI will play a constructive role".
The apex court had in March last year agreed to examine the constitutional validity of laws granting pension and other perks to retired MPs and had sought responses from the Centre and ECI on the issue.
The petitioner have approached the apex court challenging the Allahabad High Court order dismissing its plea which had claimed that pension and other perks being given to MPs even after demitting office were contrary to Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution.
The plea has also said that Parliament has no power to provide for pensionary benefits to lawmakers without making any law.
It has also claimed in the plea that pension and other amenities granted to ex-MPs were "unreasonable" and sought withdrawal of such facilities, while questioning various provisions of the law framed by Parliament.