The Union government has told Punjab and Haryana High Court that unless covered by a local Act, the appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) and parliamentary secretaries (PSes) are unconstitutional . “But at the same time, we are of the view that no parallels can be drawn between CPSes/PSes and ministers as these two are different from each other,” the additional solicitor general, Satya Pal Jain, told the high court on Wednesday.
Jain, a senior BJP leader and former MP, was replying to a query by the high court bench of justices SS Saron and Lisa Gill during the resumed hearing of two different petitions challenging six appointment of CPSes by Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab and four appointments by Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana. Haryana appointments had taken place in July 2015 and six appointments were made in Punjab earlier this year.
Himachal Pradesh high court had quashed the appointment of PSes in 2005 terming them “a fraud” on the Constitution. But the government found a way out by passing a legislation in the assembly, empowering the CM to appoint PSes. The posts still exist in the hill state.
The two petitions challenging these appointments were filed after July 2015 and by that time high court had reserved order on the 18 such appointments in Punjab during Badal government’s second stint in 2012. The hearing on petitions was being adjourned awaiting decision on the 2012 appointments. The high court on August 12 had invalidated the 18 appointments of 2012, saying that the CPSes were acting as “junior ministers” in contravention of the Constitution’s intent to limit the council of ministers to 15% of the legislature’s strength. The high court had further held that neither the governor nor the legislature had competence or sanction to frame rules regulating these appointments. The appointments “are in fact a roundabout way of bypassing the constitutional mandate… and, therefore, have to be invalidated,” the HC bench had held.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the petitioner lawyer, Jagmohan Singh Bhatti, who has challenged these appointments in Haryana as well as Punjab, told the court that both these matters were covered by the high court’s August 12 judgment, hence, should be disposed of.
However, as counsels appearing for Punjab and Haryana governments sought time to discuss it with the respective governments, the matter was adjourned for September 8.
“We have neither filed appeal against the judgment (decided on August 12), nor have taken a decision in this regard,” the Punjab government counsel told the high court.