Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the ruling SP was in for some embarrassment on Friday as the Supreme Court questioned their decision to bestow on around 100 leaders the status of Cabinet Minister, Minister of State and Deputy Minister.
The status to the politicians after their appointment as advisors and chairpersons of different government bodies followed various commensurate perks and facilities, including red beacon on their official vehicles.
“Does it not virtually affect the very principle we follow that a Council of Ministers will not accommodate more than 15 per cent of the total elected members? But here only to accommodate a lot of them, you (government) come out with such office memorandum. You give them different ranks. This is indirectly against the principle,” remarked a Bench led by Justice R M Lodha.
The Bench’s observation came after it went through the office memorandum, based on which more than 100 persons in Uttar Pradesh were bestowed the status of state cabinet ministers and minister of state.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi sought to justify the memorandum saying it was issued during the previous (Mayawati) regime in 2007, allowing the state government to grant the status of Cabinet Minister, Minister of State and Deputy Minister to political leaders not elected to the Assembly or the Legislative Council.
Unimpressed, the court told him that instead of granting them such status and perks like residence and peons, the government should pay them handsomely. “Why don’t you pay them Rs 2 lakh or 5 lakh and ask them to take care of all their needs with this money. You make them happy with the quantum of money possible under the law. Why to give them status of a Cabinet Minister or Minister of State?”
Rohatgi said the government may consider this at a later stage but the real concern for them presently was to protect the validity of the memorandum.
At this, the court remarked that the High Court had presently only ordered the state government to remove red beacon lights from the official vehicles of such political leaders and that the final arguments over the memorandum’s validity was yet to happen.
The court then dismissed the state’s appeal against the High Court’s interim order on removing the red beacon and staying the operation of the memorandum till the pendency of the case. It also requested the High Court to expeditiously decide the matter.
Entertaining a petition filed by Sachidanand Gupta, a journalist, the High Court had in December last held that use of red beacons and sirens — a privilege allowed only to constitutional authorities — was a menace to society and it must be stopped.
It had said that red beacons had become a status symbol and that police personnel, who give security cover to VIPs, should be deployed for better purposes, like making roads safe for women.
It had also issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government and 61 leaders of the SP.