What the Punjab and Haryana high court did on Friday, the Himachal Pradesh HC did in 2005, by quashing appointment of MLAs as parliamentary secretaries (prefixed by ‘chief’ in some states). It called the appointments — effectively made to circumvent the law that caps council of ministers at 15% of the legislature — “a fraud” on the Constitution. But the government found a way out.
While the court ruled that the chief minister had no power to make such appointments and that it was a wasteful expenditure of public money, the then state government of the Congress under Virbhdara Singh passed legislation in the assembly empowering the CM to appoint CPSes. The opposition BJP supported this; and when it formed the government in 2007, CM Prem Kumar Dhumal also appointed CPSes. Virbhadra is now again in power and has nine CPSes.
A joint parliamentary committee of the Lok Sabha that visited the state in June this year said the appointments could not be termed illegal as there was an enactment by the assembly in this regard.