HC strikes down law for appointing secretaries
In yet another setback to Mamata Banerjee’s government, the Calcutta High Court on Monday declared a law passed by her government to appoint Parliamentary Secretaries as unconstitutional.
The West Bengal Assembly in December 2012 had passed the West Bengal Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, paving the way for appointment of Parliament Secretaries in the State.
A Parliament Secretary enjoys the status, perks and allowances of a Minister of State.
After the law came into force, the West Bengal government appointed 26 Parliament Secretaries — all legislators of Trinamool Congress ( TMC). As of now there are 23 Parliamentary Secretaries.
The Act was subsequently challenged before the Calcutta High Court through a writ petition.
Speaking to The Hindu, senior leader of the Communist Party of India ( Marxist) and senior lawyer Bikash Bhattacharya who argued the case, said that he challenged the Act on the basis of “legislative competence’.
“We argued before the Court that the Act was a fraud on the Constitution as it bypassed Article 164 (1) which states the total number of ministers in a State cannot exceed a fixed percentage of the total number of MLAs,” Mr Bhattacharya said.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Asim Banerjee upheld our arguments and declared the Act unconstitutional, he added.
Mr Bhattacharya also demanded that following the order, the State government should revoke the appointment and the salaries paid to Parliamentary Secretaries must be returned.
Though the State government said that it would take a final call after getting a copy of the order, political parties in the Opposition welcomed the verdict.
“Just because she (Banerjee) could not satisfy her MLAs’ ministerial desires, she bypassed the Constitution to create this law. It’s now time for her to refund the taxpayers’ money that she splurged on these secretaries,” said Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said.
Earlier the Calcutta High Court had struck down a number of laws passed by State government such as returning land to farmers in Singur acquired for Tata Motors Small car project and providing honorarium to Imams and Mouzzins.