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Rajasthan HC may follow Supreme Court bungalow eviction order for former chief ministers

The Rajasthan high court will hear a case on July 12 that challenges the provisions of the law that entitles former chief ministers to perks for life, including a government bungalow of choice, nine government employees, and a vehicle.

india Updated: May 31, 2018 22:57 IST
Rakesh Goswami
Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Rajasthan,Rajasthan High Court,Supreme Court
CM Vasundhara Raje interacts with media persons at her residence in civil lines in Jaipur.(HT File Photo)

The Supreme Court’s May 7 order, scrapping free government housing for life for former chief ministers in Uttar Pradesh may have ripples in Rajasthan where, in April 2017, the Vasundhara Raje government passed a similar law bestowing free housing and an array of perks on former chief ministers.

The Rajasthan high court will hear a case on July 12 that challenges the provisions of the law that entitles former chief ministers to perks for life, including a government bungalow of choice, nine government employees, and a vehicle.

The new section to the Rajasthan Ministers’ Salaries Act of 1956 was notified in May, days after the state’s assembly passed the bill with a voice vote in presence of only a handful of opposition members.

Most of the opposition legislators, including 12 out of the 20 Congress legislators and a lone Bahujan Samaj Party MLA were not present in the house as they had been suspended a day prior to introduction of the bill.

As per proceedings of the house, the amendment allowing perks to former chief ministers was not there in the original bill and was introduced at the last minute on the floor of the house. The only voice of dissent was from rebel ruling party lawmaker Ghanshyam Tiwari, who termed it as a move to “revive feudalism” in the state.

The new section said that anyone who had served as Rajasthan chief minister for an uninterrupted term of five years would get all facilities for which a minister is entitled to, at Jaipur or any other district headquarter. It provides for a bungalow, a state car for use of the former CM and his or her family, and nine staff members, including a Rajasthan Administrative Service officer as private secretary.

Interestingly, another added section extended similar facilities to former chief ministers prior to the commencement of the law even if they had not served for
an uninterrupted five-year period in office.

As per the financial memorandum of the bill, the new sections would involve recurring annual expenditure of ₹22 lakh. However, Tiwari said it would the state ₹3-4 crore a year, if not more.

The Rajasthan law is based on a similar amendment in UP Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act made by the Samajwadi Party government in 2016 for allotting official bungalows to former chief ministers.

The Supreme Court quashed this section on May 7, observing that public office held earlier could not be a ground to shower special privileges or create a separate class of citizens.

A Jaipur-based journalist Milap Chand Dandia filed a public interest litigation on the ground that entitlements to former chief ministers were “unconstitutional” and a slap on the face of poor in Rajasthan. The court admitted the petition and sought explanation from the state.

Dandia said that during a hearing in November 2017 the state government counsel suggested the court wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict on a similar petition against the UP law.

“Now that the SC has decided on the issue, I am hopeful that the HC will also quash the new section, which is unconstitutional and invalid, and set it aside,” said Dandia. On May 28, the Rajasthan high court deferred the hearing of the case to July 12.

Chief minister Vasundhara Raje resides in a bungalow allocated to her by virtue of being a former chief minister. The official CM residence – 8, Civil Lines – is also in her possession. Tiwari has written to governor Kalyan Singh saying Raje should be asked to vacate the bungalow she has been given as former CM.

Rajasthan’s parliamentary affair minister Rajendra Rathore said the government was studying the SC order and will take a decision accordingly. He refused to comment on the hearing in the high court.

First Published: May 31, 2018 22:56 IST