In a far-reaching judgement, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday quashed the appointment of 18 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries by the Akali-BJP state government in Punjab. The order is likely to set the precedent for other litigations involving the issue of appointment of MLAs to the post of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries.
A division bench comprising Justice SS Saron and Justice Ramendra Jain gave its order on the petition questioning the legal sanctity of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries on the ground that there was no provision for their appointment in the Constitution.
According to the two petitioners filed by advocates Jagmohan Singh Bhatti and HC Arora in 2012, the appointment of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries was a burden on the state exchequer.
He argued that the CPS are treated as “de-facto ministers” and enjoy financial benefits — salary, traveling expenses, salaries of the staff attached with them, medical bills, telephone bills and other facilities such as that of the government accommodation equivalent to the status of the ‘ministerial’ houses/bungalows.
The petitioner said neither the rules of business of the Punjab government nor the rules of conduct of business of the state Assembly envisaged any role for CPS.
The total number of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries in Punjab is 24, which is more than the 18 Cabinet ministers, including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. While 18 were appointed to the position in April 2012, six other MLAs were appointed in April this year.
A petition challenging the appointment of 6 MLAs appointed as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries is still pending in the high court. Besides, Bhatti has also filed a petition challenging the appointment of four Chief Parliamentary Secretaries by the BJP government in Haryana. This petition is also pending in the High Court.
A similar issue, where the Aam Aadmi Party government have appointed 21 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries, is pending before the Election Commission of India.
Meanwhile, the Congress party welcome the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s verdict accusing the Badal government of failing to follow proper procedure before appointing them.
“It is a classic case of constitutional and legislative ignorance on part of the Badal government,” former CM and senior Congress leader Capt. Amarinder Singh said.
(With inputs from the PTI)