Date: 
31.12.2017

As the year ends, Punjab MLAs need not rush to their accountants. A month after the Punjab assembly passed the bill that mandates all members to declare their immovable assets by January 1 every year, the Captain Amarinder Singh government plans to amend the deadline.

And it will be done when the House meets next.

The Punjab Legislative Assembly (Salaries and Allowances of Members) Amendment Bill, 2017, was passed during the three-day winter session held in November-end. Promised by the Congress in its poll manifesto, the proposal was approved by the state cabinet on March 18, two days after the new government was sworn in.

For the current year, the cabinet had set the deadline of September 30 for MLAs to disclose their properties. But the bill could not be tabled in the budget session in June.

Parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra, who tabled the bill in the assembly, said it has been sent to Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore a few days back for his consent. “Since the bill has been passed by the state assembly, it has to be sent to the governor. But during the debate on the bill, BJP MLA Som Parkash had sought relaxation in the January 1 deadline saying it could fall on a weekend or holiday. Therefore, we will need to bring in a new amendment to the bill in the next assembly session,” Mohindra told HT.

The proposed amendments may also widen the scope of disclosures. “It will include both movable and immovable properties of the MLAs,” the minister said. Even after the governor gives his nod, the government may not notify the act till it brings in the fresh amendments.

The opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too had sought amendments to the bill saying the chief minister, ministers and MLAs should also disclose their business interests. The Congress manifesto had also promised a “conflict of interest” law to debar ministers and MLAs from having stakes in state-owned businesses. But CM Captain Amarinder Singh had diluted the proposal soon after forming the government saying only ministers and not MLAs would fall within the purview of the proposed law.

Though all MLAs declare their movable and immovable assets in their poll affidavits and any misrepresentation is punishable under the Representation of People’s Act, the state law is expected to bring the wealth of MLAs under public scrutiny as it has to be filed every year. According to the data released by the Punjab Election Watch (PEW) and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), more than 80% (95 out of 117) members of the Punjab assembly are millionaires.

The Akali-BJP combine may occupy the third slot in the House, but all 15 MLAs of the SAD and three of its ally are millionaires. Congress may have returned to power after a decade with 77 seats, but 87% of its MLAs are crorepatis. Even Aam Aadmi Party’s 40% MLAs fall in the millionaire club. The average assets per MLA is ₹11.78 crore with SAD legislators on top with ₹14.54 crore each, followed by the Congress at ₹12.43 crore, AAP at ₹8.33 crore and the BJP at ₹5.20 crore.

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