In his hour of personal and professional disgrace, Vijay Mallya has given himself the dignity of “resigning” from Rajya Sabha.
Else, only 24 hours later, he would have suffered the ignominy going in the record books as being 15th MP to be thrown out of Parliament on charges of misconduct. Mallya was otherwise due to retire on 30 June, nearly two months from now.
But given the nature of the charges against him and the media hype over his cases and conduct, and the collective conscience of India, Parliament had decided not to give him the honour of “retiring” and thus begun the proceedings to serve him a dismissal order. This was being done to set an example, around a time when popular cynicism about parliamentarians in general and public distaste for Mallya was at its peak.
The Ethics Committee was to meet on Tuesday to take a final call on his expulsion and publicly announce it. The Ethics Committee had last met on 25 April, where the unanimous view was to remove him at the earliest from Parliament. But to follow due procedure, he was served a show cause notice as to why he should not be thrown out. Chairman of the Ethics Committee, Dr Karan Singh had said, "We have examined the entire issue related to Mallya's case. The documents that we had sought from banks have also come. There was a unanimous view in the panel that he should be expelled from the House membership. But still we have decided to give him a week's time to tell us whatever he has to say. The next meeting of the committee has been fixed on 3 May, when we will take a final decision."
By pre-empting his expulsion order, a wily Mallya didn’t allow the Chairman of Ethics Committee, Dr Karan Singh and other members cutting across the political spectrum, whether in the ruling party or in the opposition a chance to take a moral high ground.
But the job of the Ethics Committee is far from over. Now that Mallaya has resigned on his own, the question is whether he will be eligible for, like any other ex-MP, free access to the Central Hall (should he ever return to India and like to visit Parliament) and any other part of the Parliament. It is also not clear whether he will be eligible for pension and other perks as applicable to the rest of his peers. He has been an MP for 12 years. Things could have been different if he was sacked or expelled or thrown out, whatever one may like to call it.
Either in Parliament or elsewhere in the government, things move as per certain norms, and are generally not individual-specific. In this case, will the Committee make an exception, naming Mallya, or recommend framing of rules where the absconding corporate honcho could be categorized and denied such privileges, if ever he wished to avail them.
The lawmakers, as the honourable MPs are called, are not the most law-abiding citizens. In fact a good number of them are willful law breakers, some of them named in heinous crimes. The least one could expect from our lawmakers was to face the law of the land for criminal or civil charges against them.
Mallya falls into an entirely different stand-alone category as an MP – fled from the country on a diplomatic passport, issued to him as a “distinguished” Member of Parliament.
Now that his membership of Parliament has ended, his Indian passport revoked, extradition request sent to United Kingdom authority, Indian banks and law enforcing agencies looking for him to recover Rs 9091.40 crore and put him behind the bars from various acts of omission and commission. Mallya can still have the satisfaction of not having many parallels even across the globe. He is sitting comfortably in the UK, with all the luxuries to which he had so far been used to. He is making headlines, all for wrong reasons. But still he appears to be living life king-size. His extradition will prove to be a test case of Modi government’s political will to bring its biggest defaulter to books, to be brought back and tried in Indian Court of law.
As for the Indian Parliament, Mallya serves as a living example of how money could buy everything, for instance, a berth at will in the Rajya Sabha, that too not once but twice. On both occasions, he got a full six years' term. He has been an honourable MP for full 12 years.
For the record, he had been an Independent member, representing Karnataka in the Upper House, or Council of States, as Rajya Sabha is called.
He first entered Upper House in 2002 as an Independent member with the support of the Congress Party and Janata Dal (Secular). Again in 2010, he got himself elected for the second time. This time he fetched support of BJP and JD(S).
The Ethics Committee of Parliament will have lot many things to discuss tomorrow when it meets, provided it is willing to do so.
Updated Date: May 03, 2016 08:09 AM