At a time when the state is in the election mode with political parties in the process of preparing and releasing their manifestoes and announcing candidates, Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday invalidated the appointment of 18 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, who were in the position since the Parkash Singh Badal government was repeated in 2012. The decision came as a bolt from the blue for not only these 18 MLAs, who were enjoying the privileges for past more than four years but also for the state government as any negative development is certainly going to cost the ruling alliance either directly or indirectly.
It was, in fact, the appointment of 21 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries but as one died in between, one was inducted in Council of Ministers and one was unceremoniously removed for his differences with the Shiromani Akali Dal, the High Court verdict affected a total of 18 MLAs. However, apart from those 18, now the hearts of other six MLAs, who have recently taken oath of secrecy as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, are also sinking as the judgment is almost sure to affect them too. Their future will be decided soon as the High Court is slated to take up the matter on August 24.
Though the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that the state government would file an appeal in Supreme Court against the decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court on the appointment of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPSs) in the state, the legal and political observers find the chances to get relief much bleak this time for flaws in the system being quite obvious. It is pertinent to mention that the appointment of these CPSs were challenged immediately after they sworn in 2012, highlighting the alleged illegality that successive governments of the state have cleverly committed in violation of the Constitution.
Now the Chief Minister has asked the Advocate General of the State to study the entire judgement and take appropriate action as per legal provisions within the ambit of law. But his predecessor and arch rival, former Chief Minister and Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh, who too had gone ahead with the similar appointments in his 2002-07 regime with also making some amendments in the laws, has claimed that the verdict was not unexpected as the Badal government had failed to follow proper procedure before appointing them.
Not sparing his rival at this juncture, the Patiala Royal now charges Badal government of trying to circumvent the constitutional and legislative procedure by appointing the CPSs without following proper procedure. In the whole episode it is interesting to observe the silence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). However, it is not by choice but for their compulsion as the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi is itself in a spot over the appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSs). Otherwise, the vitriolic AAP would have not let this high court judgment go on unexploited.
The Punjab and Haryana HC verdict has also come as turbulence for those dozens of political figures, whom the state government has adjusted on different positions in various boards, corporations and even in the secretariat as personal staff, without bothering much to evaluate their administrative credentials. Numerous leaders and activists of student politics and local politics are these days enjoying the high posts in the government through back door entry. Not enough, many traders, just for having huge turnovers in business, were also privileged to avail the government facilities for the power that be being kind enough to them. There would be many cases where the state government overruled the objections of the Leader of Opposition, in haste to clear the files.
Notably, it’s not that all such appointments are illegal or it is only the SAD-BJP government is the first to do so similar happenings have been reported even in the past governments too as every leader wants to keep his/her flock together and this system suits all the best way.
Now, the only issue which is haunting the leaders of ruling combine is the time of verdict but here again two viewpoints are standing parallel. On one side, a section says that the respondents had already covered their almost tenure so they would have hardly be affected but on the parallel, a sizeable section finds the judgement as a blow to their image as people would now see them guilty of having drawn the money from state exchequer in availing the facilities without having the legal right.
In politics everyone knows that image is the thing that matters the most and once sacked from the position of Chief Parliamentary Secretary (that through by the HC) those MLAs would now definitely turn weak while going in masses for seeking votes in the forthcoming polls. And why not when being the CPSs in the state they all have enjoyed the privileges costing a lot to the state exchequer. Apart from high discretionary grant for constituency development they drew Rs 15,000 extra from colleague MLAs per month in the shape of salary, then heavy perks and allowances under different sections including the travel allowance and house rent.
The court verdict is likely to have its impact in Haryana too as the government there has also appointed some CPSes along the same lines, whereas Himachal Pradesh government has already undergone a similar experience. Amid such circumstances, the 18 Punjab CPS who wouldn’t be unfurling tricolour at district and sub-division level functions this Independence Day, as it was scheduled earlier, still need to put up a brave face believing that the apex court would entertain their petition if the state knocks the door.
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