The phrase 'office of profit' is holding centrestage in Indian politics right now.
Recently it led to Jaya Bachchan's expulsion from the Rajya Sabha, because she was also the chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council, deemed an office of profit.
And on Thursday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi resigned as Lok Sabha member in the resultant political storm after media reports said the government was mulling an ordinance to redefine what constitutes an office of profit.
A 'hurt' Sonia also quit as chairperson of the National Advisory Council.
If you are wondering just what an office of profit is and why it is rocking India's political circles, read on.
What is an office of profit?
An office of profit means a position that brings to the person holding it some financial gain, or advantage, or benefit.
It may be an office or place of profit if it carries some remuneration, financial advantage, benefit etc.
The amount of such profit is immaterial.
Is there a rule that a member of Parliament or a member of a state legislative assembly cannot hold an office of profit?
Yes. Article 102 (1)(A) of the Indian Constitution bars an MP or an MLA from holding any office of profit under the Government of India or in any state other than an office declared by the Parliament by law as not disqualifying its holder.
Is the National Advisory Council post, which Sonia held apart from being the MP from Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, an office of profit?
The Opposition parties say it is; and they petitioned President A P J Abdul Kalam asking him to disqualify Sonia as an MP.
As the NAC Chairperson, she enjoyed the rank and status of a Union Cabinet minister.
Congress leaders argue that the post of NAC chairperson is not an office of profit as Sonia received no salary or perks, and she had a purely advisory role.
What exactly is the NAC?
The United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress set up the NAC in 2004 as an interface between the people and the government with regard to the implementation of the UPA's Common Minimum Programme.
The NAC comprises distinguished professionals drawn from diverse fields of development activity who serve in their individual capacities.
Through the NAC, the government has access not only to their expertise and experience but also to a larger network of research organisations, non-governmental organisations and social action and advocacy groups. The NAC makes detailed recommendations to the government in the areas of priority identified in the CMP.
Who pays for the NAC's functioning?
The Government of India. It has given the NAC office space in New Delhi and the central government pays for the NAC's expenditure. The money is provided through the Prime Minister's Office.
Does Sonia hold any other post?
She is also the chairperson of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, the Jawaharlal Nehru Trust and the Indira Gandhi Trust, which Opposition leaders say are also offices of profit.
Does the controversy involve any other politician?
The Election Commission has sent a notice to Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, Rajya Sabha member and chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Industrial Development Council, on a similar petition against him.
It is being said that in all about 62 MPs are in various offices of profit.
Petitions have been filed for the disqualification of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee (Chairman of Sriniketan-Santinikatan Development Authority), Union Minister T Subbirami Reddy (Chairman, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams), senior Congress leader Karan Singh (ICCR), nominated Rajya Sabha member Kapila Vatsyayan and V K Malhotra (former president of the All India Council of Sports).
Wasn't the government planning to redefine office of profit?
Yes, The government has been planning to make an amendment to the Members of Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act.
Sonia reportedly insisted that she does not want the NAC to be protected under the new Ordinance.
She apparently told Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh that she did not want to be seen as having benefited from any legal device.