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Matang leader moves HC seeking regulation of MLC nominations

By Kanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JUN 09, 2020 12:09 AM IST

Matang community leader Diliprao Agale has moved the Bombay high court (HC) seeking to regulate the Governor’s power to nominate members of the legislative Council (MLC). The Matang community is a scheduled caste in Maharashtra.

In his petition, filed through advocate SB Talekar, the 58-year-old social worker has sought a declaration that clauses 3(e) and 5 of Article 171 of the Constitution are beyond the legal powers of Article 14 and the rule of law.

Article 171(3)(e) empowers the Governor to nominate members on the legislative Council and Article 171(5) requires that the persons to be appointed have special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, arts, cooperative movement, and social service. Article 14 prevents states from denying any person equality before the law.

“No doubt enough guidance is provided as to the qualification or eligibility criteria of the nominated members,” stated the petition, adding, “However, there is nothing prescribing the mode and manner to nominate members on the state legislative Council.”

Agale has complained that there are no parameters and tests in place to select the candidates for nomination.

The Maharashtra legislative Council has 78 members, of which 66 are elected and the remaining 12 are nominated by the Governor.

Agale’s petition stated that all proposals for the nomination of members on legislative Councils, under the Maharashtra Government Rules of Business, are required to be submitted to the chief minister, and the Governor nominates the members based on recommendations made by the chief minister.

He further complained that no scrutiny is done to ascertain that the person recommended for nomination fulfills the essential requirements, or if he had incurred disqualification, as contemplated by Article 191.

Besides, the persons to be nominated by the Governor are not required to make disclosures of their wealth and criminal past, if any, as is required in elections to the state and Central legislature.

Therefore, according to Agale, the power to nominate becomes unfair, arbitrary, and discriminatory, as it is open to the chief minister to pick and choose persons to be nominated as per their whims and fancies.

The power conferred on the Governor is thus, not only arbitrary but has no place in a polity governed by the rule of law. It is also a violation of the mandate of equality enshrined in Article 14, the petition stated.

The actions of the chief minister, the Council of ministers or the Governor has to be fair, impartial, and based on the realistic assessment as to whether the person to be nominated has the required special knowledge or practical experience, by following due procedure, it added.

The social worker mentioned that he was also aggrieved by the fact that there are thousands of individuals who meet the requirements for such nomination, but only those who are “close to the centres of power or those who enjoy the confidence of those in power” are considered for nomination on the Council.

“The selection is done either on party lines or depending on who is close to or in the good books of the chief minister or high command of the party in power,” the petition stated. “Barring a few exceptions, most of those nominated were either active politicians or persons affiliated or associated with the party in power, or individuals enjoying political patronage,” it added.

Agale has submitted that unless the concerns expressed by some members of the Constituent Assembly – that the nominations would be made on political lines rather than merit – are addressed and remedied promptly, the same will continue to perpetuate a corrupt system.

Besides, he also complained about the disparity within scheduled castes in Maharashtra as regards the representation of various communities, contending that the major benefit of the reservation provided for the category is taken by the predominant Magar community, although their population is more or less the same.

The petition will come up for hearing on June 16 before a division bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and justice Surendra Tavade.

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