CHENNAI: Citing instances from history including the case of Vallabhbhai Patel and Morarji Desai, and quoting the provisions in the Indian Constitution, a lawyer in Chennai filed a PIL in the Madras High Court to declare O Panneerselvam as neither the deputy chief minister nor even a minister in the Tamil Nadu government.
According to advocate V Elangovan, there can be only one chief minister and not less than 12 cabinet ministers as per Article 164(1) and (1-A) of the Constitution. That is, a person can be appointed as the chief minister or a cabinet minister, but there is no provision in the Constitution to swear-in a person as deputy chief minister. However, Panneerselvam was sworn in as the deputy chief minister by the Governor at a ceremony in Raj Bhavan on August 21.
In support of his claim, petitioner referred to the episode relating to the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel in 1947. Because of personality differences, Patel was designated deputy prime minister, but was not sworn in and he did not take oath. After Lal Bahadur Sashtri’s death in 1966, there was a similar situation. However, following the intervention of the Congress leader K Kamaraj, Indira Gandhi was sworn in as prime minister. The prime contender Morarji Desai was designated deputy prime minister, but sworn in as a minister. He did not take oath as deputy prime minister, the petitioner stressed.
The posts of deputy chief minister and deputy prime minister were created for political reasons, without any constitutional mandate and sanctity, argued Elangovan. In this case, Panneerselvam took oath as deputy chief minister, which was not authorised by the Constitution.