Capt govt to push CPS bill on last day of Punjab assembly session | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Capt govt to push CPS bill on last day of Punjab assembly session

A sleek nine-member cabinet may not be enough to meet the aspirations of 77 Congress MLAs. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has hinted at expansion of his cabinet after the budget session in June. But his government is readying to push a legislation on the last day of the current session (March 29) to get the appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) passed by the House.

punjab Updated: Mar 25, 2017 08:47 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur and
Punjab chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh along with cabinet ministers on the first day of Punjab assembly session at Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Friday.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh along with cabinet ministers on the first day of Punjab assembly session at Punjab Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Friday.(Keshav Singh/HT photo)

A sleek nine-member cabinet may not be enough to meet the aspirations of 77 Congress MLAs. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has hinted at expansion of his cabinet after the budget session in June. But his government is readying to push a legislation on the last day of the current session (March 29) to get the appointment of chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) passed by the House.

Government sources contend the appointment of CPS, per se, is not unconstitutional. “The Punjab and Haryana High Court had stuck down the appointments in Punjab, holding that there was no law to mandate it. Once the assembly ratifies a law, the appointments should not face any legal hurdle,” government sources added.

The previous SAD-BJP government had appointed 23 CPSes without passing any law in the state assembly. The Congress government is likely to ensure that it keeps the appointments on a par with the 15% ceiling on size of the cabinet. In the 117 member Punjab assembly, the cabinet can have not more than 18 ministers. So, the number of CPSes to be appointed also would be restricted to the figure of 18 under the state legislation.

Other than Amarinder loyalists, young turks of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi could be appointed as CPS to “groom” them for the future. Neighbouring Himachal, too, is bringing a law to appoint CPSes.

But advocate HC Arora, petitioner in the case before the Punjab and Haryana high court, said any new state legislation on the matter will be challenged. “The constitutional mandate is of appointing ministers, which should not be more than 15% of the total number of MLAs. A state legislation cannot make the appointments legal as it will be against the constitutional mandate,” he said.

“There can’t be anybody else between the minister and administrative secretary of the department, through whom files can be routed. If a CPS comes in between, the oath of secrecy by minister goes. The HC had also pointed out that they were acting like junior ministers, which is against the law,” Arora said. “We shall definitely challenge the government move. We won’t let go the battle, which we have won after years of efforts put in by a large number of people,” Arora said.

The HC had quashed all the CPS appointments made by the previous Parkash Singh Badal government on August 12, 2016, along with six others made later. The state government had moved the Supreme Court but it had refused to stay the high court order. The HC bench had decided the matter on two petitions filed in 2012.