Former Meghalaya Parliamentary Secretaries say they cannot be disqualified
Shillong, Nov. 13 (IANS): At least 10 Meghalaya legislators who quit as Parliamentary Secretaries after the High Court struck down a state law providing for such appointments have said there is no ground for their disqualification as members of the Assembly.
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.
Sujit Dey, counsel for the 10 legislators, said on Monday that the issue of disqualification from the Assembly 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.
Dey had represented Cherak W. Momin, Limison D. Sangma, and Noverfield R. Marak and Sengnam Marak (all Congress legislators), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator, Marthon J. Sangma besides four Independent legislators – Brigady N. Marak, Samuel N. Sangma, Michael T. Sangma, Ashahel D. Shira and Rophul S. Marak.
Hours after the verdict, all the Parliamentary Secretaries quit their post.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who accepted their resignation, defended their appointment and the law.
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.
In a statement issued here on behalf of the legislators, Dey noted that there is a valid law, Prevention of Disqualification (Members of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya) Act, 1970, wherein Section 2 states that a person shall not be disqualified or shall not be deemed ever to have been disqualified for being chosen as, or for being, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya by reason of the fact that he holds any of the offices specified in the schedule.
“The schedule includes the post of Parliamentary Secretary to the government of Meghalaya. The validity of this entry has not been challenged,” he said.
Moreover, Dey said the principle that a legislature has the right to declare any post to be exempted from disqualification under Article 191(1)(a) as in the present case, is a settled law.
“The question of disqualification for holding an ‘office of profit’ is governed by Article 191 (1) (a) of the Constitution which states that a person will be ‘disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the government of any State specified in the First Schedule, other than an office declared by the Legislature of the State by law not to disqualify its holder,” Dey said.
The bench had left it to the Governor to decide on the Parliamentary Secretaries’ disqualification as Assembly members.
However, Madal Sumer said he would soon submit a representation to Governor Ganga Prasad seeking disqualification of all the legislators named in the PIL citing that “they are no longer legislators for holding office of profit”.
He said he will he would also appeal the Governor to dismiss the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government as it has been “reduced to a minority with the disqualification of those legislators, who were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries”.
Sumer also demanded that the government should direct these legislators to return all the salary and perks from the date of their appointment for serving in the unconstitutional office as they stand disqualified from that date onwards.
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 Mukul Sangma had administered the oath of office to 18 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 are scheduled to be held in February-March 2018.