A DAY after the Congress government in Punjab appointed six of its MLAs as political and planning advisers to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in the ranks of Cabinet Minister and a Minister of State, the decision came under challenge before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday where a lawyer filed a petition seeking quashing of the appointments. The petition is likely to come for hearing in next two days.
The plea filed by Mohali-based advocate Jagmohan Singh Bhatti said the appointments attract disqualification of the members from Assembly as they would be now holding the Office of Profit and seeks a direction to restrain the State from providing any facilities and perks to the appointees.
“The limit of 15 per cent (of ministers in the Cabinet) exceeds with the induction of these six newly added MLAs with Cabinet rank with their camouflaged appointment as ‘Advisers’ in the State Cabinet and it attracts disqualification (from the Assembly),” said Bhatti in his petition.
The state currently has 17 ministers in the Cabinet including Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Advocate Bhatti last year had also challenged the induction of nine more ministers in the state Cabinet submitting that the increase in number had resulted into Cabinet being in excess of 15 per cent of the Assembly. In view of the 91st amendment of the Constitution, the number of Ministers in the State of Punjab could not exceed 17, Bhatti said in the plea. Since then, MLA, Amritsar East, Navjot Singh Sidhu has resigned from the Cabinet resulting it having now only 17 members. The latest appointments brings the issue back.3
Bhatti in latest petition has further commented that the “the army and the large cavalcade of these ministers is a burden on the state government to the tune of crores of rupees annually”. The appointments are illegal and unconstitutional, he has said. The petition till Tuesday was pending with the Registry of the High Court.
Bhatti had earlier challenged the appointment of 18 MLAs as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries in 2012 by the Akali government and the same was allowed in 2016 by setting aside the appointments with the ruling that their appointments “are in fact a roundabout way of bypassing the Constitutional mandate. and, therefore, have to be invalidated”.