In a major blow to Government of Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that Parliamentary Secretaries are in the nature of Junior Ministers and their appointments amount to infraction of the provisions of Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution.
Two lawyers, Jagmohan Singh Bhatti and H.C. Arora had filed petition before the High Court seeking issuance of writ of quo warranto declaring the posts of Chief Parliamentary Secretaries held by 21 persons be illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to; besides, being in utter disregard to the Constitution (Ninety-first Amendment) Act, 2003 to the Constitution of India and for quashing their appointments as such being illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary and under undue influence of the respondents in the eyes of law.
The High Court held as follows.
The Judgment also mentions Calcutta High Court Judgment which had struck down a state legislation appointing 26 parliamentary secretaries to “aid and advice” state ministers. West Bengal Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2012 which came into effect on 2013 was declared “unconstitutional and void” as it violated the Constitutional mandate under Article 164(1) of the constitution, which fixes the maxim number of council of ministers at 15 percent of total strength of a state Assembly, which is 294 and was already full.
On a PIL filed by an organisation called Rashtriya Mukti Morcha challenging the constitutionality of this decision, the Delhi High Court had issued a notice to the Delhi government seeking explanation about appointment of 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries to assist six ministers. The government had already clarified that the offices of parliamentary secretaries would not receive any remuneration or perk creating a burden on the exchequer.
Read the Judgment here.