Not paying your MTNL telephone bill on time can invite a range of punishments from the telecom company, unless of course you're a member of Parliament.
Present and past Parliamentarians have telephone bills dues worth more than Rs 7.3 crores pending but service provider- Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited- cannot disconnect their connections.
Why? MTNL has said that the MPs enjoy a degree of immunity on non-payment of telephone bills.
In response to the RTI application filed by social activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the telecom firm has said only the Head of the Circle/ telephone district can take the ‘extreme’ step of disconnecting the line and that too after writing a 'polite' letter to the concerned MP and giving him reasonable opportunity to clear the dues.
A total of 405 MPs- 399 former and six sitting, cumulatively owe a whopping Rs 7,30,66,746 to MTNL. Six of these MPs have died- Banarshi Das, K Obul Reddey, R.V. Swaminathan, K Rajamallu and A.R. Mallu and Shankar Dayal Singh.
Out of six sitting MPs, JD (U) MP from Hajipur, Bihar, Ram Sundar Das is a trailblazer and tops the list with dues of Rs 9.4 lakh. He is followed by Congress MP from Kalahandi, Orissa, Bhakta Charan Das (Rs 3.9 lakh) and Congress MP from Arani, Tamil Nadu M. Krishna Swamy (Rs 3.1 lakh). One of the six sitting MPs in the list is from Rajya Sabha- Narendra Budgania with dues worth Rs 1.3 lakh.
“No-dues certificate should be necessary from contestants before filing nomination for any election. Services like of telephone, water, electricity etc should be disconnected for non-payment of any single bill, like are done in case of normal citizens,” Agrawal said.
According to the Parliament Secretariat Rules, each MP is entitled to have five telephones including two mobile phones and make 1.5 lakh calls.