All eyes are on the Raj Bhavan that is to take a call on whether 17 Meghalaya legislators who quit as Parliamentary Secretaries after the High Court last week struck down a state law providing for such appointments can be disqualified as members of the state Assembly.
A Raj Bhavan official said that Governor Ganga Prasad is waiting for the reference of the state government and the Assembly Speaker on the court verdict on the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries.
“The Governor is yet to receive a reference from the government and Assembly Speaker on the court verdict. Once we receive the communication from them, the Governor’s office will seek the suggestion of the Election Commission on the matter,” a Raj Bhavan official told IANS on Tuesday.
On November 9, the Meghalaya High Court had held invalid the state law providing for appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries, but left it to the Governor to determine if those who held the post should be disqualified from the Assembly.
The verdict by a division bench of Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Ved Prakash Vaish came on a PIL filed by state resident Madal Sumer, challenging the “extra constitutional and illegal” appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in the state.
According to Article 192 of the Constitution, if any question arises as to whether a member of a House of the Legislature of a State has become subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned in clause (1) of Article 191, the question will be referred for the decision of the Governor and his decision shall be final.
Leaving it open to the Governor to decide on the issue of disqualification of Parliamentary Secretaries as Assembly members, the bench had noted: “It is hardly a matter of any doubt that when a question arises as to whether a member of a House of the Legislature of the state has become subject to any of disqualifications mentioned in Article 191(1), the question has to be referred for the decision of Governor; and the decision of the Governor in this regard, on the basis of the opinion of Election Commission, is final.”
However, 10 of the 17 legislators who quit as Parliamentary Secretaries following the High Court verdict have said there is no ground for their disqualification as members of the Assembly.
Sujit Dey, counsel for the 10 legislators, said that the issue of disqualification becomes “infructuous” since the post of Parliamentary Secretary itself has ceased to exist, and out of respect for the court verdict, all Parliamentary Secretaries had immediately resigned.
Hours after the November 9 verdict, 17 Parliamentary Secretaries quit their post.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who accepted their resignation, defended their appointment and the law.
“This law has been enacted based on this mandate of the provisions of the Constitution by which we can prevent the members of the august house from getting disqualified for holding an office of profit wherein law says such office will be deemed as not as office of profit,” Sangma said.
However, Madal Sumer submitted a representation to Governor Prasad on Monday evening seeking the disqualification of the legislators named in the PIL, citing that “they are no longer legislators for holding the office of profit”.
Sumer urged the Governor, the highest constitutional authority of the state, to exercise his power under Article 192 of the Constitution and to take a decision on the issue of disqualification
On July 26, the Supreme Court had declared as unconstitutional a law enacted by Assam in 2004 that allowed the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in the rank of Minister of State.
On March 12, 2013, Chief Minister Sangma had administered the oath of office to 18 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries to assist 12 Ministers after the Congress retained power following the Assembly elections.
However, Independent legislator Lamboklang Mylliem resigned from the post on March 29 last year, citing legal grounds.
Parliamentary Secretaries Celestine Lyngdoh and Comingone Ymbon were subsequently made Cabinet Ministers.
Election to the 60-member Assembly is scheduled to be held in February-March 2018.