Parliamentary secretaries elsewhere: there, not there

In Karnataka, their appointment attracted criticism while in West Bengal, their appointment was struck down by the High Court

By: Express News Service | Updated: January 20, 2018 7:45:30 am
AAP MLAs at Arvind Kejriwal’s residence on Friday (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Karnataka

Number: Ten parliament secretaries appointed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Names: Makabul S Bagavan, Raju Alagur, Umesh G Jadav, Doddamani Ramakrishna Shidlingappa, Chennabasappa Sathyappa Shivalli, Shakuntala T Shetty, C Puttarangashetty, H P Manjunatha, E Thukaram, all MLAs, and K Govindaraj, MLC.

Perks: Parliamentary secretaries have a position equivalent to that of minister of state and are entitled to salaries and allowances paid under Karnataka Minister’s Salaries and Allowances Act of 1963 to ministers of state.

History: Despite its introduction in 1967 in Karnataka, the appointment of parliament secretaries to assist the government in administration is not a common practice. After a long interval, the present Congress government appointed 10 parliament secretaries in November 2015.

The 10 parliament secretaries are attached to various ministries and tasked with implementing government programmes. The move attracted criticism from the likes of former PM and former Karnataka chief minister H D Deve Gowda, who said that appointment of political secretaries burdens the state exchequer without achieving anything. Siddaramaiah argued that the appointments would “tone up administration and speed up delivery of services’’. According to Karnataka Law Minister T B Jayachandra, parliamentary secretaries “assist ministers in their duties’’. However policies will be decided by the ministers.

(Inputs from Johnson TA)

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West Bengal

Number: None. The TMC government appointed 26 parliamentary secretaries in 2013 and 2014 to “aid and advise” ministers, but it was struck down by the Calcutta High Court in June 2015.

History: The government passed the West Bengal Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2012, in December 2012. According to the Bill, a parliamentary secretary would enjoy the status of minister and liaison for the minister with administrative department heads. In June 2015, the High Court struck down the Bill as “unconstitutional”. The bench observed that it was violative of Article 164(1A) of the Constitution and pointed to lack of competence of the Assembly to frame such a law.

(Inputs from Ravik Bhattacharya)

Rajasthan

Number: Ten parliamentary secretaries appointed by the Vasundhara Raje government, their stated duty to assist ministers in charge.

Names: BJP MLAs Suresh Singh Rawat, Jitendra Kumar Gothwal, Vishwanath Meghwal, Ladu Ram Vishnoi, Bhaira Ram Chaudhary, Narendra Nagar, Bhima Bhai, Shatrughan Gautam, Omprakash and Kailash Verma.

Perks: From April 1, 2017, as per The Rajasthan Ministers’ Salaries (Second Amendment) Act, 2017, parliamentary secretaries are entitled to salary of Rs 40,000 per month and sumptuary allowance of Rs 50,000 per month, apart from medical facilities for self and family, housing, conveyance, telephone, postal and other facilities.

History: Parliamentary secretaries were exempted from disqualification in 1957, following their inclusion in The Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Members (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1956. The Act declared certain offices of profit which will not disqualify their holders for being, or for being chosen as, members of the Rajasthan Assembly. In 2017, to consolidate The Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Members (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1956, and the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Members (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1969, the Rajasthan government passed the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Members (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 2017, and repealed the 1956 and 1969 laws.

(Inputs from Hamza Khan)

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Jharkhand

Number: None. The system of appointing parliamentary secretaries was adopted once in 2005 during the regime led by BJP’s Arjun Munda. While the system was not officially abolished, it went defunct with the appointees resigning in a few months.

History: Four MLAs, all BJP members, were appointed parliamentary secretaries in a bid to quell rumblings of dissent among those denied ministerial berths. The parliament secretaries were supposed to have cabinet minister rank. But they complained about not getting salaries, either as cabinet ministers, because the rules were not finalised, or as MLAs, because they were not supposed to draw salaries from two sources. They did not have the power to summon departmental secretaries, though they were supposed to get official cars with red beacons, and office chambers. One of the appointees, Ashok Bhagat, who first wrote a letter to the CM demanding its abolition, recalled: “We did not get anything. Neither work, nor facility, not even salary. So, we realised that there was no utility of this post.”

(Inputs from Prashant Pandey)

Puducherry

Number: One

Name: Congress MLA K Lakshminarayanan is serving as parliamentary secretary to Chief Minister V Narayanasamy.

Perks: “I get only Rs 1,500 as compensatory allowance for being parliamentary secretary,” Lakshminarayanan said.

History: The Union territory long ago passed a Bill exempting the post of parliamentary secretary from ‘office of profit’, Narayanasamy of the Congress told The Indian Express. “It is an ornamental post, he is only drawing the salary of an MLA,” he said. Lakshminarayanan said an MLA cannot be disqualified in Puducherry for holding the post of parliamentary secretary as it is backed by an Act of 1994.

(Inputs from Arun Janardhanan)

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Tamil Nadu

Number: None. Governments in the last three decades have not appointed parliamentary secretaries.

History: In C Rajagopalachari’s cabinet, there was a parliamentary secretary between 1952 and 1953. After 25 years, the post was revived in 1978, during the first regime of M G Ramachandran, to appease some disgruntled MLAs. They were to “answer questions, pilot Bills and reply to discussions on behalf of the ministers in the House in which they are members”, says a document of Tamil Nadu Assembly, adding that they had no powers to attend cabinet meetings. In March and October 1978, MGR appointed a total of nine parliamentary secretaries.

(Inputs from Arun Janardhanan)

Madhya Pradesh

Number: None

History: Madhya Pradesh had parliamentary secretaries until 1992, when the BJP government was dismissed in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition. After President’s rule, the Congress was back in power in 1993. The practice did not continue after that. Former principal secretary of MP Assembly Bhagwandas Israni said the parliamentary secretaries used to get all perks and facilities enjoyed by ministers.

(Inputs from Milind Ghatwai)

Punjab

Number: None. The previous government appointed 25 chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS), but the appointment was quashed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2016.

History: Soon after coming to power in 2012, the SAD-BJP government appointed the CPSs. This was challenged by an advocate in the High Court. The judgment came in August 2016. The CPSs were entitled to monthly salary of Rs 40,000, travel expenses, office in the civil secretariat, office staff and salaries of staff attached with them, medical and telephone bill reimbursements, and government accommodation equivalent to the status of minister.

(Inputs from Sukhbir Siwach)

Haryana

Number: None. The present government appointed four CPSs soon after coming to power in 2014. This was challenged on the same grounds as in Punjab, and all four were removed from their posts.

History: While defending the appointment of CPSs, the government had contended in court that they were appointed to assist cabinet ministers and ensure smooth functioning of government departments. However, the court did not find merit in these contentions and quashed the appointments as “unconstitutional”. Haryana’s AAP unit wrote to the Election Commission seeking the MLAs’ disqualification after the HC order, but none of the MLAs was disqualified.

The CPSs were entitled to salary, travel expenses, an office in the civil secretariat, office staff and salaries of staff attached with them, medical and telephone bill reimbursements, and government accommodation.

(Inputs from Sukhbir Siwach)

Himachal Pradesh

Number: None.

History: The previous Congress government appointed nine CPSs, of whom three were re-elected and four lost, one did not contest polls and one resigned before polls. Sources say that current CM Jai Ram Thakur told MLAs in a meeting that he would not be appointing CPSs.

(Inputs from Ashwani Sharma)

Gujarat

Number: None. The last Vijay Rupani government had 11 parliamentary secretaries, the highest in any Gujarat government, while the Anandiben Patel government had five.

History: The post of parliamentary secretary was created in Gujarat in 1960 when the state was formed, and exempted from being called an office of profit under Gujarat Legislative Assembly Members (Removal of Disqualifications) Act, 1960. The post is equivalent to minister of state, with equivalent salary and perks. Each parliamentary secretary gets an official residence, car and office.

While appointing parliamentary secretaries, the Rupani government issued a release in 2016 saying it had given adequate representation to “all regions and communities of the state”. It had even given a caste-based break up of the ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

(Inputs from Parimal Dabhi)

Telangana

Number: None

History: In December 2014, the Telangana government appointed six TRS MLAs as parliamentary secretaries in the rank of cabinet minister. The appointments were challenged by Congress MP G Sukhender Reddy and former TDP MLA Revanth Reddy, who has now joined the Congress, in the High Court at Hyderabad for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They stated that a maximum of 15 per cent of members from the state legislature can be appointed as ministers, and appointing parliamentary secretaries in ministerial rank exceeded that limit. On May 2, 2015, the court struck down the government order for the appointments.

(Inputs from Sreenivas Janyala)

Uttarakhand

Number: None. The former Congress government appointed MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, who were allotted cabinet ranks, and enjoyed all facilities of cabinet ministers.

History: During the former Congress regime, Uttarakhand BJP leader Prakash Pant, who is now the state’s finance minister, had filed a PIL in the Uttarakhand High Court saying that the appointment of 12 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries was “unconstitutional”. “The parliamentary secretaries were being given access to cabinet notes and government files, which was in violation of constitutional norms,” Pant told The Indian Express. The BJP government took over while the matter was still in court.

According to Pant, the practice of appointing parliamentary secretaries began in 2009, when BJP’s Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was CM. “During his (Nishank’s) time, parliamentary secretaries were not not given access to important government files,” Pant said.

(Inputs from Kavita Upadhyay)

The Northeast

Arunachal Pradesh: Has 23 parliamentary secretaries. They get no additional salary or perks apart from what they get as MLAs.

Manipur: None. All appointed by the BJP-led government in April 2017 resigned in July.

Meghalaya: None. All 17 resigned in November 2017.

Mizoram: None. All 7 resigned in August 2017 after an SC order.

Nagaland: T R Zeliang appointed 26 parliamentary secretaries in July 2017, of whom 16 are still in office. A few were upgraded as ministers, some made advisors with cabinet rank, some resigned.

(Inputs from Samudra Gupta Kashyap)

Goa

Number: None.

History: In 2009, after it was challenged by Aires Rodrigues, the Bombay High Court bench in Goa of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Nelson Britto quashed the appointment of NCP legislator Nilkant Halarnkar and Congress MLA Fransisco Silveira as parliamentary secretaries, terming it unconstitutional. Digambar Kamat was then Chief Minister.

In the 1990s, Goa had a tradition of appointing 3 to 5 persons as parliament secretaries, which political pundits said was also used “to ensure the MLAs do not jump parties”. Advocate Rodriques, who challenged it, said, “The basic perk was the authority the red beacon gave them. They were also treated like ministers in public spaces. The post had no significance and didn’t serve the public. Hence it was challenged. Now Goa doesn’t have this post.”

Also, the Goa Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 2005, does not allow for the appointment of this post.

(Inputs from Smita Nair)

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Tripura do not have parliamentary secretaries.

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