The Rajasthan High Court on Wednesday held as void a 2017 amendment which provided chief ministers of the state — for the remainder of their lives — a government residence, a car, telephone and a staff of 10.
The Rajasthan Ministers’ Salaries (Amendment) Act, 2017, which amended the Rajasthan Ministers’ Salaries Act, 1956, was brought by the Vasundhara Raje government in 2017. Within the amendment, sections 7BB and 11(2) dealt with the extending the said facilities — to former CMs — which the court found contrary to Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees equality before law.
The bench of Chief Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Prakash Gupta said, “All power is public trust, to be held for and on behalf of the people and for their benefit. Once the holders of such power stray from the path of rectitude and help themselves to public largesse, the essence of the democratic principle and equality is violated.”
It said that the state government’s move “reminded of George Orwell’s apocryphal portrayal of a distorted meaning of equality in his much—celebrated Animal Farm — that all animals are born equal but some are more equal than others.”
The bench said that the Act arrogates former CMs “to the status of a ruling elite by assuring them significant largesse for life,” which “amounts to saying that such individuals are more equal than the other public servants and citizens of India – placing those provisions beyond the pale of valid legislation,” while terming the amendment as “abhorrent” and “appropriation of state wealth”.
The current PIL was filed by veteran journalist Milap Chand Dandia, 87, in 2017. While the order was reserved on May 9 this year, it was delivered on Wednesday.
Dandia had submitted that the Constitution provides only for payment of salary and allowances to the members of legislatures or to the ministers and that there is no specific provision for residence and conveyance allowance for them in these provisions, and there, former CMs are not entitled to the said facilities.
Apart from former CM Vasundhara Raje, the HC’s decision will also affect former CM Jagannath Pahadia.