August 13, 2016 3:04:41 am
Setting aside the appointment of 18 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPSs) of Punjab’s SAD-BJP government made in April 2012, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has reasoned that the Governor or the state legislature has no competence to frame rules regulating conditions of appointment and services of either CPSs or parliamentary secretaries for their functioning within the House of the state assembly.
In a 71-page judgment pronounced on Friday, the division bench comprising Justices SS Saron and Ramendra Jain said that the parliamentary secretaries in fact perform the functions almost like ministers and enjoys perks and facilities equivalent to that of ministers.
“Therefore, the parliamentary secretaries are in the nature of junior ministers who change with the government of the day. As such, appointments of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries amount to infraction of the provisions of Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution,” reads judgment.
The appointments of CPSs are contrary to the Constitutional intent of limiting the number of ministers or the size of the cabinet, observed the court. “The appointments as made, therefore, are in fact a roundabout way of bypassing the Constitutional mandate of the provisions of Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution and, therefore, have to be invalidated,” the court said, adding that such posts are not part of regular services of the state under the executive forming part of the bodies involved in the governance of the state.
The court also expressed that the object of the 91st amendment of the Constitution in 2003 had been to down size number of the ministers in a House to 15 percent of the total MLAs and the Constitutional mandate cannot be discarded or undone by creating posts of CPSs or Parliamentary Secretaries and “thereby achieve indirectly what cannot be achieved directly.”
Seeking quashing of the appointments of CPSs, petitioners Jagmohan Singh Bhatti and HC Arora had argued that the army of these CPSs is a burden on the on the state exchequer to the tune of Rs.3 crore annually or may be even more. It was submitted by the petitioners that the expenditure as incurred due to these appointments is a big drain and siphoning off the financial resources of the state, which is already under a heavy debt.
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