A day after the Opposition slammed the state government for granting quasi-judicial powers held by cabinet ministers to bureaucrats, deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday claimed that “rights” were given to secretaries even in the past. He, though, assured that cabinet expansion will take place in Maharashtra soon.
State Chief Secretary Manu Kumar Shrivastava on Friday issued an order that granted quasi-judicial powers to bureaucrats, prompting criticism from Opposition leaders.
“Such criticism is nothing but political blame-game. Secretaries are only given rights to conduct hearings of quasi-judicial matters. There is nothing new in this. Similar rights were given to secretaries in the previous government as well, and the one before that,” said Fadnavis, adding that the practice has been around “even in different states”.
On allegations that the administration in Maharashtra was being handed over to the bureaucracy, he said, “This government belongs to the people of Maharashtra and is currently being run by those (who have been) elected by people, and not by secretaries. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is heading the government and I am supporting him as a cabinet minister. This is the government of the people and will remain so.”
On reasons behind the state government’s orders issued on Friday, sources said the delay in expansion of the cabinet had held up several important matters, including hearings, in different government departments.
The orders, issued in an attempt to ensure that people don’t suffer due to the delay in cabinet expansion, would mean that now secretaries could hold hearings in matters that are usually taken up by ministers.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said that a state like Maharashtra should not be run by secretaries.
On Saturday, The Chief Minister Office issued a statement saying no powers of cabinet ministers have been given to bureaucrats and that only quasi-judicial matters will be heard by them. “This has been done temporarily due to an ongoing Public Interest Litigation (in the regard) in the Bombay High Court,” the statement said. Even when the cabinet is working at full strength, many a times, secretaries are given the power to conduct hearings in quasi-judicial matters in departments such as cooperation, revenue, rural development or general administration, the statement further read. “Therefore, it is wrong to say that the decision has been taken only now,” it added.
When asked whether the ongoing Supreme Court hearing on the suspension notice to 16 MLAs from CM Shinde group has led to the delay in cabinet expansion, Fadnavis said, “Supreme Court has never stopped us from cabinet expansion. The hearing in the court has no correlation with cabinet expansion. We are going to expand the cabinet very soon, much sooner than one expects.”