Bill likely to give Parl Secretaries constitutional shield

The AAP government is going to try and get the Assembly’s nod for appointment and facilities being given to the 21 Parliamentary Secretaries, whose post has been kept out of the office of profit list by the cabinet.

Sources said the government may is preparing a Bill for introduction in the June 23 to 30 Assembly session to get constitutional sanction for the appointment of an unprecedented number of Parliamentary Secretaries in March.

Each minister was given three parliamentary secretaries for efficient handling of their multiple portfolios.

The appointments generated a lot of political heat and were also challenged in the Delhi High Court. A petition was also been filed before President Pranab Mukherjee on the grounds that the appointments were unconstitutional.

Former secretary of the Delhi Assembly S K Sharma said the move to appoint parliamentary secretaries was illegal and will fail to stand judicial scrutiny as there is nothing as parliamentary secretary mentioned in the  Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act

He said though the practice of appointing parliamentary secretaries has no statutory backing, it was started in 1997 by the then BJP government and continued by the Sheila Dikshit government.

The Leader of the House used to informally seek the consent of the Opposition party for appointing the parliamentary secretaries which was given as part of good parliamentary practices. “ However, never ever did the number of parliamentary secretaries go over three,” he said. 

At the time of the appointment of the parliamentary secretaries, the AAP government claimed that they would not get any additional pay, office or vehicle. However, all the 21 new appointees were later given offices in the premises of the Delhi Assembly.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seems to be aware of the “illegality” of the largesse for the 21 party MLAs and this is why his cabinet has decided to keep these posts under a list of office which do not come under office of profit.

Till now, only the posts of Delhi Women Commission chief and chairperson of Delhi Khadi and Village Industries Board were kept in the list which did not include office of profit.  
After the cabinet’s decision to keep the parliamentary secretaries’ post out of office of profit, the proposal has now been sent to the law department for drafting a Bill for the upcoming Assembly session.

Even if the AAP government may manage to push through the Bill in the Assembly, it may require the approvals of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and the central government as the proposal requires sanction for expenditure.

Also, to get a legislative approval for appointments which were made two months ago seems to be the biggest hurdle in the way of getting them a constitutional sanction.
The move to appoint parliamentary secretaries came a day after the naming of 11 legislators as district development committee heads by the Kejriwal government.

The spurt in giving additional responsibilities to MLAs was seen as an attempt to appease all elected representatives at a time when the party was experiencing internal turmoil due to the dissenting notes of now-expelled leader Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.
About a dozen other MLAs, apart from parliamentary secretaries and district panel chiefs, were also made members of other boards, committees and civic agencies like the Delhi Development Authorities and municipal corporations.

Earlier, BJP legislator N K Garg has held the post of parliamentary secretary but he quit after he was told that it was an office of profit. Congress leaders Ajay Maken, Kunwar Karan Singh, Naseeb Singh, Anil Bhardwaj, Tarwinder Singh Marwah and Prahlad Singh Sawhney have served as parliamentary secretaries during the Congress rule.

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