As 21 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs face the prospect of disqualification on grounds of office of profit, details have emerged of how the appointments of Parliamentary Secretaries have been quashed by high courts in various states.
As AAP attacked the Modi government over President’s refusal to give assent to a bill for amendment of the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 that has raised the prospects of disqualification of MLAs, government officials said the Kolkata High Court had quashed a bill for the appointment of 13 Parliamentary Secretaries in June 2015.
Similarly, the Goa bench of the Mumbai High Court had quashed a bill passed by the state assembly for appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in 2009.
The appointment of 19 Parliamentary Secretaries in Punjab was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is still hearing the case.
In Haryana too, appointment of four Parliamentary Secretaries was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the matter is sub-judice now.
In Himachal Pradesh, the state High Court had struck down the appointment of 9 Parliamentary Secretaries saying their appointments did not owe their origin to any constitutional or legal provision.
The high court in Rajasthan has issued notices to 13 Parliamentary Secretaries questioning their appointments.
The Telangana High Court stayed the implementation of an official order on appointments of 6 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries in the rank of cabinet minister.
In Karnataka, appointment of 10 Parliamentary Secretaries was also challenged in the court.
As per the Constitution, all states, except Delhi, should not have ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries more than 15 per cent of the total strength of the Assembly.
In case of Delhi, where the strength of the Assembly is 70 MLAs, the Ministry should be 10 per cent of its strength while the Chief Minister can appoint just one Parliamentary Secretary as per an Act enacted by the then Sheila Dikshit government.
Government officials said after President Pranab Mukherjee withheld his assent to the Bill that wants to give immunity by excluding the post of parliamentary secretary from the office of profit, it is certain the 21 MLAs will face disqualification under the People’s Representatives Act by the Election Commission.
“The Election Commission will take the final decision but sooner than later, the 21 MLAs will be disqualified as per Constitution,” the official said.
According to government officials, the most crucial difference between other states and Delhi government’s Act is that there was an Act under which the Parliamentary Secretaries were appointed post the Act was in place.
In Delhi, on the day of the appointment of these Secretaries, there was no Act. Delhi government wanted its action to be covered retrospectively which does not happen unless its a Money Bill.
Unless it’s a Money Bill and the acts enacted by the state assemblies are also getting quashed.
This is perhaps the first bill ever in the history of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi on which the President has withheld his assent.
Officials said this has happened as there was no consultations between the AAP government and the central government.