The High Court has declined to entertain a PIL challenging the appointment of chairpersons to boards and corporations. The petitioner contended that the chairpersons are getting salary and allowances on par with ministers. This increases the actual strength of the ministers beyond the stipulated number as prescribed under the Constitution, the petition contended.
The petition was filed by city-based advocate K B Vijay Kumar. The petitioner, appearing party-in-person, contented that the number of ministers cannot exceed 15% of the total strength of the legislative Assembly. At present, Karnataka Legislative Assembly has 225 members, including one nominated member.
According to the petitioner, if the chairpersons to the boards and corporations are added to the 28 cabinet ministers, who have taken the oath from the Governor, the actual number of ‘ministers’ would go beyond the ceiling imposed under the constitution.
The petitioner said this was in violation of Article 164 of the constitution. The petitioner further added that the facilities, including salary and allowances, to the ministers are extended to the chairpersons of boards and corporations. Hence, they have to be treated as ministers for all practical purposes.
The petitioner had relied upon a judgment of Karnataka High Court in January 2020 by which Karnataka Parliamentary Secretaries’ appointments were struck down. The petitioner submitted that the positions of the appointment of chairpersons to boards and corporations are no different from the position of parliamentary secretaries.
The court, however, said merely equating the chairpersons on the salary and allowances do not elevate their positions as ministers. “Merely because the salary and other perquisites which are applicable to ministers are being provided, these chairpersons cannot become ministers,” a division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty said.
The bench however clarified that it has not gone into the decision of the state government to provide salaries and allowances admissible to the posts of chairpersons of boards and corporations.