President Pranab Mukherjee has refused his assent to proposed legislation that sought to protect, with retrospective effect, 21 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs from disqualification for occupying additional posts deemed unconstitutional, given their status as elected representatives.
So let us look in to the Parliamentary secretariats, and the issue with the help of 4 articles.
Who are parliamentary secretaries? How are they appointed?
Several states have created posts of ‘parliamentary secretary’ or ‘chief parliamentary secretary’ to ‘accommodate’ MLAs who could not become ministers. Appointments are at the discretion of the chief minister; the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, for example, has no provision for appointment of parliamentary secretaries. A parliamentary secretary often has the rank of a minister and may get charge of one or more departments if the chief minister so desires.
What perks does a parliamentary secretary enjoy?
Almost the same as ministers, including a substantial salary and allowances (which add up in Punjab, for example, to Rs 1.35 lakh per month and may, in Telangana, soon reach Rs 3 lakh per month), official accommodation, official vehicle, office space, secretarial staff and, in some states like Punjab, police protection. The Kejriwal government, however, has said Delhi’s parliamentary secretaries will get office space and official transport, but no remuneration or other perks.
How many parliamentary secretaries can a state have?
There is no fixed number. Delhi has 21; Punjab had the same number when the government took charge in 2012, but has 19 now. Telangana has 6. Gujarat, which has a tradition of parliamentary secretaries, has 5 now. However, UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and J&K have no parliamentary secretaries. Orissa last had one over half a century ago.
Why do states feel the need to appoint parliamentary secretaries?
Essentially for political reasons. The Constitution puts a ceiling on the number of ministers in a government, and CMs hand out these posts as favours to caste or other groups whom they fail to accommodate, or to placate those leaders who might otherwise create trouble for the government. In Delhi, AAP has 67 of 70 MLAs in the assembly, but can have only seven ministers.
Is doing so constitutional?
Public interest lawsuits have been filed in several High Courts saying that the practice of appointing parliamentary secretaries is against the 91st Amendment to the constitution, 2003, which introduced Article 164(1A), saying
“the total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a State shall not exceed fifteen per cent of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that State”.
(In the case of Delhi, Article 239AA, introduced by the 69th Amendment, 1991, applies, which says
“there shall be a Council of Ministers consisting of not more than ten per cent of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly”.)
Some cases are ongoing, while in some, courts have quashed the posts.
Article 164 (1A) was inserted in the Constitution on the recommendation of the National Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution headed by former Chief Justice of India, M.N. Venkatachaliah on misuse and drainage of public money to put a ban on over-sized cabinet.
For a detailed study Parliamentary Secretaries: Errand Boys Or Legislators?