The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday, July 6, set aside the appointments of four chief parliamentary secretaries in Haryana, all of them BJP MLAs: BJP MLAs Seema Trikha, Shyam Singh Rana, Bakshish Singh Virk and Kamal Gupta.
The bench stayed the order for three weeks to give them time to appeal.
The appointments had been challenged by a lawyer, Jagmohan Singh Bhatti, in a public interest litigation, stating that there was no provision in the Constitution for posts of chief parliamentary secretaries. Further, the appointments were a burden on the exchequer.
Bhatti pleaded that chief parliamentary secretaries were de facto ministers and enjoyed financial benefits including salary, travelling expenses, staff, medical and telephone bills and government accommodation.
The Haryana government said the secretaries were appointed to assist ministers but are not in fact paid salary and allowances payable to ministers. The government had further defended its the right to create such posts and fix salaries and other allowances.
The appointments of chief parliamentary secretaries had in fact been struck down by the High Court last year. In an order on August 11, 2016, a bench of the court had then stated that these posts are unconstitutional.
“The appointments of chief parliamentary secretaries are contrary to the constitutional intent of limiting the number of ministers or the size of the Cabinet. The appointments as made, therefore, are in fact a roundabout way of bypassing the constitutional mandate of the provisions of Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution and, therefore, have to be invalidated,” the bench had observed.