Haryana CM Khattar wants 15% cap on cabinet size to go, writes to PM Modi
In a communication to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the CM has said that the 15% cap on the size of the cabinet was to the disadvantage of the states which have smaller legislatures. The 91st constitutional amendment was made during the rule of the BJP-led NDA in 2003.india Updated: Jul 08, 2017 20:52 IST
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar wants the central government to review the 91st constitutional amendment, which puts a 15% cap on the size of the council of ministers in states.
In a communication to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the CM has said that the 15% cap on the size of the cabinet was to the disadvantage of the states which have smaller legislatures. The 91st constitutional amendment was made during the rule of the BJP-led NDA in 2003.
The amendment states: “The total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a state shall not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the legislative assembly of that State. Provided that the number of Ministers, including Chief Minister, in a state shall not be less than twelve.”
Though the letter was written by Khattar days before the Punjab and Haryana high court set aside the appointments of four chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) in Haryana, it is evident that the CM had an inkling of the shape of things to come. The high court had in 2016 set aside similar appointments made by the Punjab government. So it was expected to deliver a similar verdict in Haryana’s case.
TACTICS TO CIRCUMVENT LAW
The parliamentary secretaries were appointed by many state governments to circumvent the 15% constitutional limit on the size of the council of ministers. In a way, the option gave the ruling parties to accommodate and appease more MLAs and strike a regional and caste balance.
Khattar, in his communication to Modi, has proposed that another constitutional amendment should be made to increase the upper limit so that states having fewer legislators were able to appoint more ministers in a rational manner.
“There are approximately 50-60 departments in each state. States with bigger legislatures have the flexibility to induct more ministers while states with lesser MLAs are disadvantaged. Then, there is a condition of having a minimum of 12 members, including the chief minister, in a cabinet. This is for smaller states having 40-70 legislators, who otherwise will get only 6 to 10 ministers if the 15% cap is applied. So there is a need to rationalise,’’ said an official.
Whatever may be the justification, the fact remains that the setting aside of appointments of parliamentary secretaries by the courts have curbed the flexibility of the state government to circumvent the Constitution and accord minister like status and perks to MLAs.
REVIEW PANEL HAD PROPOSED 10% CAP
The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), on whose recommendation the Constitution was amended, had observed in 2002 that abnormally large councils of ministers were being constituted by various governments at the Centre and in states and this practice had to be prohibited by law.
The panel had proposed to amend the Constitution to provide that the size of the council of ministers should not be more than 10% of the strength of House or Houses concerned, whether unicameral or bicameral.
However, in case of smaller states like Sikkim, Mizoram and Goa having 32, 40 and 40 members in the legislative assemblies respectively, a minimum strength of seven ministers was proposed.
However, the NDA government, while amending the Constitution, increased the upper limit from the proposed 10% to 15% and minimum 7 ministers to 12.