In an embarrassment to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana, the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) on Wednesday quashed the appointment of its four Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPSs).
A division Bench of the HC headed by Justice SS Saron allowed the public interest litigation (PIL) filed challenging the appointment of BJP legislators, Badkhal MLA Seema Trikha, Radaur MLA Shyam Singh Rana, Hisar MLA Dr Kamal Gupta and Assandh MLA Bakhshish Singh Virk as CPSs in Manohar Lal Khattar-led government in Haryana.
However, after the request of the state government, the HC has given three weeks to approach the Supreme Court.
The PIL challenging the appointment of CPSs was filed by an advocate, Jagmohan Singh Bhatti, submitting that the appointments were illegal, unconstitutional and a burden on the public exchequer.
The petitioner also sought direction for restraining the respondent state of Haryana from extending facilities and perks to the MLAs appointed as CPSs, besdies access to government files.
Directions were also sought for the Finance Department of Haryana to not to bear the expenses of these illegal appointments which are in violation of the 91st Amendment 2004 of the Constitution of India and to withdraw all the facilities extended to the CPSs.
While in response to the petition, the state government filed its reply through an affidavit on behalf of Attar Singh Godara, Under Secretary, Political and Service Department, Haryana, stating that the petition does not disclose any violation of petitioner’s statuary rights or the statuary obligation of the respondent state and in absence of such material facts, the petitioner is not competent to invoke the extraordinary writ jurisdiction of the high court.
As alleged by the petitioner that the newly appointed CPSs were the defacto ministers enjoying the status of deputy ministers and have been allocated portfolios which in violation of provisions of 91st amendment Act 2003 of the Constitution, the respondent state replied that neither the CPSs were minister nor the deputy minister and have not usurped any public office in any manner.
Posts of the CPS was created by the state government vide a 2006 notification and after the concurrence of the Finance Department, their salaries were fixed by the state government. Further, the CPS at no stage would take any decision independently but would aide or assist the minister-in-charge in arriving at a decision, the affidavit states.
The affidavit states that the PIL is factually incorrect and legally misconceived and distorted facts and liable to be dismissed with special cost. On July 23, 2015, chief minister Khattar administrated oath these four MLAs as CPSs in his government. The move even was criticised by the leaders of opposition parties.