Kolkata: In a setback to the West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress, the Calcutta High Court on Monday declared as unconstitutional a state law passed to appoint parliamentary secretaries to “aid and advise” state ministers.
The Mamata Banerjee government in December 2012 passed the West Bengal Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, empowering it to appoint parliamentary secretaries entitled to enjoy the status of a minister of state or deputy minister including pay and allowances.
The law came into force on January 11, 2013.
After the act was passed, Chief Minister Banerjee had appointed 26 of her party legislators as parliamentary secretaries assigning them to various government departments.
The act was subsequently challenged before the Calcutta High Court.
“We had challenged the act on the grounds that the West Bengal Legislative Assembly did not have the competence to enact such a law.
“Also it was a fraud on the constitution as it bypassed Article 164 (1) which states the total number of minister in a state cannot exceed fifteen percent of the total number of MLAs,” said Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who had moved the petition.
“The bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur upheld our arguments and declared the act unconstitutional,” said Bhattacharya.
“With this verdict, the post of parliamentary secretaries has become void and all the appointments made under it now stand nullified,” he added.
Welcoming the verdict, the opposition parties demanded the refund of public money that was “splurged” on the parliamentary sectaries.
“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 all the taxpayers’ money that she splurged on these secretaries,” said Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.
“Despite repeated legal setbacks, our chief minister refuses to learn and continues to act in whimsical ways. Hope she learns this time from her mistake and also ensures that the public money that was wasted is refunded,” said state Bharatiya Janata Party president Rahul Sinha.