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Centre’s nod must for MPs for accepting foreign hospitality during private visits: RS

New Delhi: Members of Parliament should observe strict guidelines while accepting foreign hospitality during private visits abroad and obtain prior permission from the central government, according to fresh orders issued Thursday.

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The series of notifications were issued by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat.

One of them requires MPs to follow the norms including the Code of Ethics, which mandates them not to take gifts that may interfere with honest and impartial discharge of their official duties.

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These guidelines come at a time when the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha has recommended the expulsion of TMC member Mohua Moitra in the bribe-for-query row. Moitra has been accused of accepting “illegal gratifications” from Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandani to raise questions in Parliament.

The norms said all invitations from any foreign source, namely, a government of any country or any foreign entity are expected to be routed through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

In case such an invitation is received directly, MPs are required to bring it to the notice of the MEA and necessary political clearance of that ministry should also be obtained for the purpose.

“Members of Parliament are required to obtain prior permission of the Central Government for accepting any foreign hospitality during their private visits abroad or visits abroad in their capacity, a new notification under Section 6 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010,” another notification said.

MPs are also advised that their applications for acceptance of foreign hospitality must reach the Ministry of Home Affairs at least two weeks before the proposed date of onward journey, it said.

“Before accepting the hospitality, the Members should satisfy themselves about the credentials of the organization/institution extending the hospitality,” the communication said.

Another notification said MPs are requested to send information of their visit abroad, stating the purpose, to the secretary-general at least 3 weeks in advance so that the MEA and the Indian mission/post concerned could be informed of the same.

Members are also requested to e-mail their itineraries, as soon as they are finalized, to Joint Secretary, in-charge of Conference & Protocol Section.

Another fresh notification reiterated the Code of Ethics that Parliamentarians must follow which says MPs must not do anything that brings disrepute to the Parliament and affects their credibility. They must also utilise their position as MP to advance general well-being of the people, the Code reiterated.

“The Members of Rajya Sabha should acknowledge their responsibility to maintain the public trust reposed in them and should work diligently to discharge their mandate for the common good of the people. They must hold in high esteem the Constitution, the Law, Parliamentary Institutions and above all the general public.

“Members should not take a gift which may interfere with honest and impartial discharge of their official duties. They may, however, accept incidental gifts or inexpensive mementoes and customary hospitality,” the Code of Ethics said.

“In their dealings, if Members find that there is a conflict between their interests and the public trust which they hold, they should resolve such a conflict in a manner that their private interests are subordinated to the duty of their public
office,” it also said.

The Code also said that MPs should always see that their private financial interests and those of the members of their immediate family do not come in conflict with the public interest and if any such conflict ever arises, they should try to resolve such a conflict in a manner that the public interest is not jeopardised.

Invitations to MPs should also be sent to the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division (FCRA), for accepting any foreign hospitality being offered during visits abroad.

On receipt of political clearance from the MEA and FCRA permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs, an MP shall keep the Rajya Sabha Chairman informed, inter-alia, of the purpose of the visit and the hospitality proposed to be received.

“Before accepting the hospitality, the Members should satisfy themselves about the credentials of the organization/ institution extending the hospitality,” the notification said.

The Code of Ethics also states that MPs should never expect or accept any fee, remuneration or benefit for a vote given or not given by them on the floor of the House, for introducing a Bill, for moving a resolution or desisting from moving a resolution, putting a question or abstaining from asking a question or participating in the deliberations of the House or a Parliamentary Committee.

If members have confidential information owing to their being MPs or Members of Parliamentary Committees, they should not disclose such information to advance their interests, it stressed.

“Members should not misuse the facilities and amenities made available to them. Members should not be disrespectful to any religion and work for the promotion of secular values. Members are expected to maintain high standards of morality, dignity, decency and values in public life,” the code also said.

In another notification, as per the Members of Rajya Sabha (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Rules, 2004, all elected MPs of Rajya Sabha are required to furnish information to the Chairman, Rajya Sabha regarding their assets and liabilities within ninety days from the date on which they make and subscribe an oath or affirmation for taking their seat in the Council. Members should furnish information about assets and liabilities within India and abroad.

Another notification said that while MPs and their spouses are entitled to get diplomatic passports, they can use them for private visits (tourism or to visit friends/relatives), but they are not meant to be used when travelling abroad for private business.

In yet another notification, the Secretariat said the decorum and the seriousness of the proceedings of the House require that there should be no ‘Thanks’, ‘Thank You’, ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Vande Mataram’ or any other slogans raised in the House.

“Rulings given by the Chair should not be criticised directly or indirectly inside or outside the House. Questions about the Rajya Sabha Secretariat/ Lok Sabha Secretariat and the functions of the Chairman, Rajya Sabha/Speaker, Lok Sabha are not
answered on the floor of the House. Reference to Officers of either House in debates is improper,” it said.

The order said the production of exhibits on the floor of the House is not in order as per ‘Parliamentary Etiquette’ which is required to be observed by them.

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