FEARING A legal fallout, the state government is likely to put on hold the appointment of parliamentary secretaries till the Cabinet is expanded.
With the aim to meet the aspirations of 77 MLAs, the Amarinder Singh government has decided to introduce a legislation in the Assembly to appoint parliamentary secretaries. The CM had inducted nine ministers in his Cabinet and though an expansion is awaited, it has not been scheduled yet. According to rules, the CM’s Cabinet cannot exceed 15 per cent of the total strength in the House which means Punjab can have only 18 ministers. Sources in the government said the functionaries were thinking of buying time for now as they were planning to appoint parliamentary secretaries on the plea that they were needed for legislative assistance and they would not be privy to the files.
“But we came across an opinion that we have not even completed our Cabinet yet. If we do not have the full pack of ministers, the appointment of these secretaries could be quashed by the court on the argument that if there are no ministers, what would the legislative assistants do. We are taking a legal opinion on the issue. We do not want to make a move which would not be legally sound,” said a senior government official.
The HC had quashed the appointment of parliamentary secretaries made by the previous SAD-BJP government on August 12, 2016. Though the state government had moved the Supreme Court, the latter had refused to stay the High Court order. The HC was moved by a local lawyer, HC Arora, who has again threatened to challenge the appointment of PSes by the Amarinder government. Sources also said that the Advocate-General of Punjab, Atul Nanda, tasked with preparing the bill would be doing so before the next session of the Assembly. “We will not be in breach of the court or law. The chief minister is of the firm view that the government would not do anything which is illegal. We do not want to be embarrassed by making any appointment that would be quashed by the court later,” said an official.
Arora had challenged the appointment of CPS on the plea that neither the rules of business of the Punjab government nor the rules of conduct of business in the state Assembly envisaged any role for the CPS. He also stated that the appointment would be a burden on the state exchequer.