Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Is the appointment of Parliamentary Secretary unconstitutional?

Delhi is not the only State where the post of Parliamentary Secretary has been challenged. Various High Court judgments in the past have deemed the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries unconstitutional and have ruled against such appointments. On Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reacted strongly to the President’s rejection of proposed legislation by the Delhi government to exempt the post
of Parliamentary Secretary from the purview of ‘office-of-profit’, questioning why Delhi is being singled out as other States too have instituted the post of ‘Parliamentary Secretary.’ The posts do exist in various States at present, including Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan — where the BJP is in power. Various petitions in the High Court have challenged the appointment of Parliament Secretary, arguing that the post is in contradiction to Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution which provides for limiting the number of Ministers in the State Cabinets to 15 per cent of the total number of members of the State Legislative Assembly. Because a Parliament Secretary often holds the rank of Minister of State, the Calcutta High Court, in June 2015, quashed the appointment of 24 Parliamentary Secretaries in West Bengal dubbing it unconstitutional. Similar action was taken by the Bombay High Court in 2009 for the appointment of two Parliamentary Secretaries in Goa and by the Himachal Pradesh High Court in 2005 for the appointment of eight Chief Parliamentary Secretaries and four Parliamentary Secretaries in the State. In May 2015, the Hyderabad High Court stayed the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in Telangana. The matter is sub judice in Punjab and Haryana.
The number of Cabinet Ministers in Delhi cannot exceed 10 per cent of the total 70 seats — that is seven — as per Article 239(A) of Constitution. As of now, only one Parliamentary Secretary to the Chief Minister is authorised.
The ongoing debate around Delhi is whether the post of ‘Parliamentary Secretary’ is an ‘office of profit.’
Five tests
‘Office of profit’ is not defined in the Constitution. However, in past judgments, the Election Commission has noted “what constitutes an office of profit under the Government is now well established by a catena of judgments of the Supreme Court.”
Five tests have been laid down: (i) whether the government makes the appointment; (ii) whether the government has the right to remove or dismiss the holder; (iii) whether the government pays remuneration; (iv) what the functions of the holder are; and (v) does the government exercise any control over the performance of these functions.
The Delhi government argues that as Parliamentary Secretaries are not eligible for any remuneration or perks from the government the post should be exempt from the office of profit.

No comments:

Post a Comment