Tycoon Vijay Mallya, also a Rajya Sabha member, and chairman of Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers Ltd (MCFL), was made a member of Parliament's standing committee on chemicals and fertilisers earlier this year. Though Mallya has not attended any meeting of the committee on chemicals and fertilisers till date, according to information available on the website, this has raised many eyebrows.
Critics say this is a clear conflict of interest "unless the Doctrine of Necessity is in play", said former Chief Justice of India V N Khare. Hence, it "can be an example of conflicting interest," he added.
The Vijay Mallya-promoted UB Group owns a little over 30 per cent stake in MCFL. An email sent to Mallya for his response went unanswered.
Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo, who headed a committee to inquire into 'various facets of misconduct and basic attributes of standards of conduct/behavior expected of members in 2008, said "there is no doubt that it is a conflict of interest".
The report of his panel had said, "The committee are of the view that a provision may be made to the effect that if a member has a personal, pecuniary or direct interest on any subject/ matter, he should not be nominated in the first place to the departmentally related standing committee, which normally examines such subjects/matters."
The Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha, in its first report on December 1, 1998, has listed 14 points that serve as a framework for a code of conduct for members. "Apart from this, misconduct could include actions that lead to advancing the private interest of self or others, based on information received in the course of parliamentary duty and responsibility," said Lok Sabha member Nakul Das Rai to the committee in response to a question on the definition of misconduct.
According to parliamentary experts, the members are ideally to be nominated to committees by the speaker of the Lok Sabha or chairman of the Rajya Sabha. However, the procedure generally followed includes political parties recommending names of members. Also, any member should declare her/his interests as and when needed, said officials versed in the functioning of parliamentary standing committees.
According to Vinod Bhanu, executive director of the Centre for Legislative research and Advocacy, this has remained a non-addressed issue. "The disclosure mechanism in India is not very strict. Not much scrutiny is done," he said.
He added that registering their interests should be made mandatory for MPs of both Houses and the ethics committee should scrutinise the details against their parliamentary work.