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Not for Aam Aadmi

Not for Aam Aadmi
Highlights

The appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries is the latest bone of contention between Delhi government and the centre. Kejriwal appointed 21 of his MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries. The Parliamentary Secretaries are supposed to assist the ministers in their functioning. This argument is fallacious. 

The appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries is the latest bone of contention between Delhi government and the centre. Kejriwal appointed 21 of his MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries. The Parliamentary Secretaries are supposed to assist the ministers in their functioning. This argument is fallacious.

The appointments are only to rehabilitate the legislators by subverting the constitutional provisions that limit strength of the Cabinet. Such a move is unbecoming of a party that claims an unflinching commitment to purity and probity in public life. But Kejriwal‘s political critics are absolutely hypocritical.

Chief ministers belonging to many political parties have resorted to this politically unethical, constitutionally unacceptable therefore legally untenable practice. But this cannot justify the move by AAP government as it claims to be different.

Article 164(1A) brought into effect through 91st constitutional amendment in 2003 stipulates that the total number of ministers, including the chief minister, in the Council of Ministers in a state shall not exceed fifteen per cent of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that state.

The objective is to avoid undue political rehabilitation of legislators. Call it by any name; Parliamentary Secretaries are nothing but a clear violation of the spirit of this constitutional provision. This constitutional amendment was enacted on the recommendation of National Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution headed by Justice M N Venkatachaliah.

Expedient politicians indulge in such acts of constitutional sacrilege with all brazenness even after several judicial pronouncements held it unconstitutional. Political parties are unabashedly duplicitous. The BJP which generously appointed parliamentary secretaries while in power in Rajasthan challenged the same when Congress government did so.

The posts of Parliamentary Secretaries still exist even now in Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan, all ruled by BJP. But, it opposes such appointments in Delhi. Political insincerity on the part of other parties does not condone Arvind Kejriwal as he claims his politics to be clean and different.

In a bid to legitimise his actions, Kejriwal proposed a legislation to exempt Parliamentary Secretaries from the purview of the Office of Profit Act. The President has rejected the Delhi government proposal resulting in Kejriwal’s fresh tirade against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Even if the post of Parliamentary Secretary is exempted from Office of Profit, it still contradicts Article 164(1A) of the Constitution. Kejriwal has to answer. Indian jurisprudence has clearly established what Office of Profit is. Kejriwal’s argument that these Parliamentary Secretaries are not paid cannot be an escape route from the Office of Profit as vindicated by the Jaya Bachchan disqualification case.

The Election Commission has issued notices to 21 MLAs designated as Parliamentary Secretaries to explain why their membership of legislature should not be cancelled. The provision of Office of Profit is to ensure the independence of legislature. The Constitution envisages separation of powers.

The executive is accountable to legislature. The legislators holding Office of Profit may render them vulnerable to the executive. At least one expects Kejriwal to protect the constitutional sanctity. The ongoing controversy is certainly not for Aam Aadmi.

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