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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Punjab: CM has complete authority to choose his advisors, says HC

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the petition challenging the appointment of Prashant Kishor as Principal Advisor to the Chief Minister, Punjab.

Written by Jagpreet Singh Sandhu | Chandigarh |
March 17, 2021 4:09:26 am
Prashant Kishor

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the petition challenging the appointment of Prashant Kishor as Principal Advisor to the Chief Minister, Punjab.

The appointment of Kishor has been challenged at HC by Labh Singh, who is a boxing coach based at Khanna and has won various medals in boxing at national level, and Satinder Singh who is a practising advocate of Chandigarh, who has remained councillor of Municipal Corporation, Chandigarh.

The division bench of Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash, while dismissing the plea, has held, “The Chief Minister, being an elected representative has manifold Constitutional duties to discharge including good governance towards the residents of the state. In fulfilment of said obligation, the Chief Minister has complete authority to choose his advisors. Since an Advisor to Chief Minister is not a post but an office which is not regulated by any statutory rules, the argument that an advertisement should be issued is completely misplaced.”

“The appointment in question is not a civil appointment, but for the purposes of perks and rank only and thus, Article 16(1) of Constitution is not attracted. In case the appointment, as argued by petitioners, is only to accommodate some person which will put burden on exchequer, then it is for the public to take its call during the next elections. However, for the purpose of adjudicating the present petition, petitioners have not been able to point out violation of any Constitutional or statutory provision which would disentitle respondent No. 4 from appointment to the post of Principal Advisor,” the Bench remarked.

The petitioners’ counsel had argued that without issuing any advertisement or conducting any interview after framing criteria the post in question has been filled up. It was further contended that in matters of appointment to any office under state, no post can be filled up without following Article 16(1) of the Constitution which provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state. Since Prashant Kishor has been appointed as Principal Advisor to the Chief Minister of Punjab with a status of a Cabinet Minister, he will be provided for all pay, perks and facilities from the state exchequer. Therefore, it was imperative for the state to issue an advertisement as there are a large number of educated and well-qualified persons in the state of Punjab, including the petitioners.”

In reply, Advocate General Punjab, Atul Nanda, argued that the present petition suffers from lack of locus and maintainability as in service matters, no PIL is maintainable seeking a writ in the nature of certiorari. It is argued that Article 16(1) of the Constitution which provides for equal opportunity in the matter of appointment to a post cannot be made a ground by a person who is a stranger to the process and can only be taken recourse to by a person who falls in the same class/category of employment.

After hearing the arguments, the bench said that present writ petition is not maintainable on two counts: firstly, petitioners have filed a writ of certiorari while seeking to espouse public interest. The bench referred to judgments passed by Supreme Court in “Hari Bansh Lal versus Sahodar Prasad Mahto and others”, “Gurpal Singh versus State of Punjab and others”, whereby it has been held that in service matters no public interest litigation is maintainable.

And secondly, even if a challenge can be laid to any appointment, then only a writ of Quo Warranto can be maintained and that also if it is against statutory rules. Thus, the court found no merit in the petition and dismissed it.

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