The 21 chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS) who took oath on April 10 have some work to do with Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, on Monday, issuing instructions to route all files being put before the chief minister, deputy chief minister and other ministers through the CPSs concerned.
The instructions have been sent to financial commissioners, principal secretaries and administrative secretaries. All the CPSs already have offices in the civil secretariat and enjoy perks and facilities which ministers in the state cabinet are entitled to.
At the time of their appointment, the CM, who had administered them the oath of office, called it a "political decision" and an attempt to give representation to different areas and communities, while the CPSs had then been demanding more powers.
The practice of appointing CPSs was adopted by the states after an amendment to the Constitution in 2003, which limited the number of ministers to 15% of the total members in the legislative assembly. Before that, a small state like Punjab used to have 35-40 ministers.
Other than office and staff in the civil secretariat, CPSs are entitled to a bungalow in the state capital, a car (with unlimited fuel), along with police escort.
It is still not clear whether a CPS can take a decision or comment on the official files.
CPS Mantar Singh Brar, who is holding the charge of rural development and panchayats, welcomed the decision. "But I am yet to know whether I will have the powers to comment on a file or not," he said.
A public interest litigation has been filed in the high court, challenging the appointment of CPSs on the plea that there is no provision for it in the Constitution. The petition sought directions for restraining the finance department from bearing the expenses of these illegal appointments and withdrawing all the facilities of CPSs.