Jowai: In yet another historic judgment, the High Court of Meghalaya today declared the Meghalaya Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2005 invalid for want of legislative competence of the State Legislature and struck it down.
This judgment was passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Meghalaya in the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Madal Sumer against the State of Meghalaya and others in 2006 challenging the validity of the Meghalaya Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2005.
As per the judgment, the order reads following the Bimolangshu Roy (Dead) through LRs vs. State of Assam and Another: Transferred Case (Civil) No.169 of 2006 passed on 26.07.2017, the Court held the Meghalaya Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2005 invalid.
The judgment said that as a necessary corollary, the notifications appointing the Parliamentary Secretaries and other follow-up actions are declared void, for having been issued and carried out under an invalid enactment.
However, the Court said that the question regarding disqualification of Parliamentary Secretaries as members of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly is left open for determination of the Meghalaya Governor, if raised in accordance with law.
Sumer contended that the present petition is predominantly founded on the ground that the Meghalaya Act of 2005 offends Clause (1-A) of Article 164 of the Constitution of India that was inserted by the Constitution (Ninety-first) Amendment Act, 2003 so as to put a check on the size of the Council of Ministers of every State. He averred that as per the mandate of Article 164(1-A) of the Constitution of India, the total number of Ministers including the Chief Minister in the Council of Ministers in a State cannot exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly subject to the proviso that number of such Ministers including the Chief Minister in a State shall not be less than 12.
The petitioner has pointed out that the Legislative Assembly of the State of Meghalaya is having 60 members and hence, the Council of Ministers could be of maximum 12 Ministers including the Chief Minister. He submitted that after inquiry, he came to know that as many as 18 Parliamentary Secretaries have been appointed in the State of Meghalaya from amongst the members of Legislative Assembly in different departments but the same is colourable exercise of power without any legal sanction.
Sumer has pointed out that such appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries was notified on 14.03.2013 in the name of Chief Minister in exercise of the powers under the Meghalaya Act of 2005. The petitioner has referred to the provisions of the Meghalaya Act of 2005, as then existing, to submit that as per Section 5 thereof, a Parliamentary Secretary is to hold the rank and status of the Minister of State and is entitled to such salaries and allowances as admissible to a Minister of State under the Meghalaya (Minister’s Salaries and Allowances) Act, 1972 [“the Meghalaya Act of 1972”]. The petitioner would contend that the duties discharged by the Parliamentary Secretaries in the State of Meghalaya are in no way different than the duties of the Minister of State in the Cabinet and the Parliamentary Secretaries are being treated as Ministers for all purposes in gross violation of Article 164(1-A).