Nod to disqualify 20 AAP lawmakers No to Office of Profit

There is a lesson to be learnt from the decision of President Ram Nath Kovind to accept the recommendation of the Election Commission of India to disqualify 20 AAP MLAs of Delhi Legislative Assembly for violating the provisions of the Office of Profit. Under the Office of Profit law, lawmakers cannot hold any post in the Government that entitles them to perks or powers unless a law has been passed to exempt the posts. In the eyes of the Election Commission of India the very fact that the 20 MLAs were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries amounted to violating the Office of Profit law. This is the stand of the Election Commission of India and President Ram Nath Kovind has given his nod to the observation of the ECI. What the higher Court, that is Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court will say if and when the matter is brought before them is another matter, but already the ECI has underlined a statement and this is important. The natural question that follows is what about the 12 MLAs who have been appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries in Manipur ? True there were talks that some of the Parliamentary Secretaries had resigned from their post, but till date there is nothing official about the resignation and the latest annual diary (2018) published by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations lists the 12 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries, leaving a big question mark on the resignation version. This is not the first time that the post of Parliamentary Secretaries has come into the focus with the law Court stepping in and overruling the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in different States.
After the 91st Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed and enacted in 2003, all States in India had to bid adieu to jumbo sized Ministry. The Amendment seeks to limit the size of Ministry at 15 pc of the total strength of the House and in cases like Manipur which has a relatively smaller strength in the Assembly the size of the Council of Ministers was fixed at 12. However like some the other States, Manipur too went ahead and appointed Parliamentary Secretaries after enacting the Manipur Parliamentary (Appointment, salary and allowances and other Misc) Act, 2012, thereby defeating the spirit of the 91st Constitutional Amendment Act. It is the AAP at Delhi right now, but this could have a positive fall out in the sense that States like Manipur too will need to wake up to the reality or else face the risk of getting some MLAs disqualified for violating the Office of Profit law. Just how seriously the judiciary has come to view the matter can be gauged from the manner in which the Supreme Court of India struck down the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in Assam in June last year. Earlier the Punjab and Haryana High Court struck down the Punjab Parliamentary Secretaries and Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (Terms and conditions of appointment) Rules, 2006 while in 2009 Bombay High Court negated the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in Goa. Himachal Pradesh High Court too struck down the appointment of 8 Chief Parliamentary Secretaries and 4 Parliamentary Secretaries in 2005. The question is, can the Parliament Secretaries in Manipur seek refuge under the Manipur Parliamentary Secretary (Appointment, salary and allowances and other Misc) Act, 2012 ?

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