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Review: Leave applications by 17th Lok Sabha MPs – Who & Why?

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The Constitution provides for disqualification of a Member of Parliament (MP) if he/she is absent continuously for 60 days from the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha without permission. Hence MPs submit leave applications when they are absent for a longer period. In the 17th Lok Sabha, 86 leave applications are submitted till the 09th session. 

The 17th Lok Sabha was formed in 2019 with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) retaining its position as the single largest party, with 303 out of 543 seats, and forming the government for the 2nd time in a row. Since then, there have been a total of 9 sessions, including the recently adjourned monsoon session during the 17th Lok Sabha. The 17th Lok Sabha has met for a total of 192 days. However, as observed earlier, the average attendance has been low because of which the Prime Minister urged his party Members of the Parliament (MPs) to be regular to the parliament. But what are the reasons cited by MPs for their absence? Do they submit leave applications? Here is an analysis of the leave applications submitted by MPs of the Lok Sabha during the different sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha. 

Article 101 mandates that MPs should take permission to be absent for 60 days or more

Conditions for the disqualification of Members of Parliament (MPs) are laid out in Article 101 of the Indian Constitution. One of the conditions for disqualification is when a member of either house of parliament remains absent for a period of 60 days without permission. If the member doesn’t seek permission for absence for 60 days, then the House will declare the seat vacant. The period of absence is calculated from the day a member is absent from the sittings of the House till the day he next attends it, whether in the same session or in subsequent sessions. However, if the vacancy is due to adjournment of the House for four or more consecutive days, no action will be taken.  

Leave applications are examined by a Parliamentary Standing Committee

In the Lok Sabha, a leave application must be submitted by the concerned MP to the Speaker of the House, or the Secretariat, or the Chairman of the Committee on Absence of Members. One single leave application cannot exceed 60 days. The application must include the reasons for absence. The applications received are then placed before the ‘Committee on Absence of Members from the sittings of the House’ for their consideration and report. The committee, which is a standing committee in the Lok Sabha, meets and examines each leave application and cases where a member has been absent for a period of 60 days or more, without permission, from the sittings of the House. 

In its report, recommendations are made with respect to each case as to whether the absence should be condoned, a leave is to be granted, or whether the House should declare the seat vacant. The Committee consists of 15 members, nominated by the Speaker, who hold office for one year. Currently, Ravneet Singh from Ludhiana constituency (Indian National Congress), Punjab is the chairperson of the committee. Some of the grounds on which leave are granted to members are illness and medical check-ups, deaths in family, marriage, detention in jail, pilgrimage, visits abroad, etc.  

33 MPs and 2 Ministers submitted a total of 86 leave applications seeking leave for 1,768 days

In the 9 sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha, a total of 86 leave applications were submitted by 33 MPs and 2 Ministers. Altogether, the 86 leave applications sought leave for 1768 days. While all the applications were approved, leaves were approved for a total of 1697 days. This is because the committee does not recommend leaves for more than 59 days. The members may be granted leave for 59 days in the first instance and asked to apply afresh for the remaining period for which they seek absence.  

BJP MPs had submitted 22 applications followed by TMC and BSP MPs with 13 each

Of the 86 leave applications submitted, MPs of the BJP submitted 22 followed by 13 each by MPs of the Trinamool Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party. 9 applications were submitted by Samajwadi Party MPs and 6 by INC MPs.  MPs of Shiv Sena, YSRCP, and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Party had submitted 5 applications each while MPs of Shiromani Akali Dal submitted 4 applications. One application each was submitted by the MPs of CPI, DMK, BJD, and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. 

In terms of the number of days of leave, BJP MPs applied for 496 days, Bahujan Samaj Party MPs applied for 331 days while Trinamool Congress MPs applied for 273 days, and MPs of Samajwadi Party applied for 156 days. 

More than 53% of the applications cited ‘Self-Illness’ as the reason while 29% was due to ‘Detention in Jail’

Majority of the leave applications cited ‘Self Illness’ as the reason. Self-Illness was the reason cited in 46 applications out of the total 86, accounting for more than 53%. Detention in Jail was the reason cited in 25 applications followed by Elections in 10 applications. Elections include both state elections and other local or bye-elections. 2 MPs cited sickness in the family as the reason for leave while one member each cited marriage in the family, the marriage of self, and work in the constituency as the reason for leave. 

Among those MPs who cited detention in jail as the reason for absence, Bahujan Samaj Party MP, Atul Kumar Singh alias Atul Rai had submitted 12 such applications. Former MP Mohammed Azam Khan of Samajwadi Party had submitted 9 applications while Farooq Abdullah of J&K National Conference submitted 4 applications, all with the reason of detention. Farooq Abdullah stated Detention in Jail and Self-Illness as the reason in his applications. 

Of the 10 applications seeking leave for elections, 3 were from three BJP MPs. All 4 applications of Shiromani Akali Dal MPs (two MPs) were for elections. 2 applications of leave for elections were submitted by an MP of INC and one from BSP.

Committee recommended all the leave applications

The committee recommended all the leave applications received from MPs. A total of 1,697 days of leave were approved as against the 1,768 requested. In six cases, the committee did not recommend the total number of days as applied by the MP. This was because they had applied for more than 60 days of leave in their applications while the maximum limit is 60 days. As mentioned earlier, the committee recommended that the MPs apply afresh if the leaves requested exceed 59 days.  

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