Veldurai says he has also received a reply that his plea is under consideration
Former Congress MLA P. Veldurai has told the Madras High Court that he has made a fresh representation to the Legislative Assembly Secretariat to reconsider its 2011 decision to recover ₹21.58 lakh from him since his 2006 election from Cheranmahadevi constituency was declared null and void after the completion of his tenure.
Appearing before a Division Bench of Justices T. Raja and T.V. Thamilselvi, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan said his client had served as MLA for two terms and only one of his elections was set aside by the Supreme Court. Yet, in 2011, the Assembly Secretariat stopped paying him pension for the other term too.
On a representation made by him, the Secretariat had now begun paying him pension for the term which was not under any dispute. However, in so far as his request to reconsider the plea for recovering the salary paid during the second term since he had served the full term, he had been told that it was under consideration.
After recording the submission made, the judges adjourned the former MLA’s 2019 writ appeal by eight weeks.
The appeal had been preferred challenging an order passed by Justice V. Parthiban who had in February 2019 held that legislators were liable to refund salaries and other emoluments, along with penalty, if a court of law declares their election to be illegal, null and void either before or after the completion of their tenure.
In the case of Mr. Veldurai, he was elected from Cheranmahadevi in May 2006. However, allowing an appeal on an election petition preferred by his rival candidate P.H. Paul Manoj Pandian of AIADMK, the Supreme Court had set aside his election on the ground that he was a registered government civil contractor at the time of filing nomination.
Consequently, on August 22, 2011, the Assembly Secretariat slapped a demand notice on him for recovering the salary and other emoluments along with penalty. Immediately, he rushed to the court contending that the salaries and emoluments paid to him for his services could not be demanded back. He also claimed that there was a bar on imposing penalty under Section 107 of the Representation of the People Act of 1951.
Justice Parthiban held that when a person not qualified to contest in elections had got elected, and subsequently by operation of law lost the status of having been an elected member right from the day when he assumed office, the attendant benefits he had availed during such tenure must necessarily be withdrawn for all practical purposes.
The judge said there was a difference between government servants whose salaries could not be recovered on account of dismissal or termination of service and politicians who run for public offices not to make a living but to serve the people at large. He observed that it would behove well if the elected members voluntarily refund the public money once their elections get nullified.
“By no stretch of imagination the member of a House is an employee. If at all, they can claim only to be employees of the people. In a case, where the member is disqualified and his candidature itself goes, all the benefits he had by such election are not due to him at all,” the judge had said.
He went on to observe: “It was not salary paid for any services rendered… It is a recognition by ‘We the People’ to keep a member of the House compensated for sparing his time for public service… The member himself should be graceful and willing to refund the sums even without the State seeking a refund. That will add to the wisdom and status of those fighting for public offices.”
However, when the verdict was taken on appeal, another Division Bench had on June 11, 2019 passed an interim order restraining the Assembly Secretariat from recovering the money without the leave of the court. Since then, the appeal had been kept pending for final disposal.
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