Saturday, August 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SC lays down law on non-MLAs as ministers
Ruling on Tej Prakash’s appointment

New Delhi, August 17
Laying down the law on appointment of non-elected members as ministers, the Supreme Court today said if a non-MLA has served as minister for six months without getting elected to the Assembly, he cannot be reappointed as minister during the same term of the House.

“Reappointment of such a person, who fails to get elected as a member within the period of grace of six consecutive months, would not only disrupt the sequence and scheme of Article 164 but would also defeat and subvert the basic principles of representative and responsible government,” a three-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice A.S. Anand said.

This ruling came on a petition challenging reappointment of Mr Tej Prakash Singh, son of slain Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, as minister in 1996, after he served as minister for six months without getting elected to the Assembly.

The court said, “We are of the considered opinion that it would be subverting the Constitution to permit an individual, who is not a member of the legislature, to be appointed a minister repeatedly for a term of ‘six consecutive months’ without him getting himself elected in the meanwhile”.

It said “The clear mandate of Article 164(4) that if an individual concerned is not able to get elected to the legislature within the grace period of six months, he shall cease to be a minister, cannot be allowed to be frustrated by giving a gap of a few days and reappointing the individual as a minister, without his securing confidence of the electorate in the meanwhile.”

Democratic process which lies at the core of our Constitution cannot be permitted to be flouted in this manner, Mr Justice Anand, writing for the Bench, said.

Mr Justice Anand, writing the judgement for the Bench, said “Framers of the Constitution by prescribing the time limit for ‘six consecutive months’ during which a non-legislator must get elected to the legislature clearly intended that a non-legislator cannot be permitted to remain a minister for any period beyond six consecutive months, without getting elected in the meanwhile.”

Resignation by the individual concerned before the expiry of the period of six consecutive months, not followed by his election to the legislature, would not permit him to be appointed as minister once again without getting elected to the legislature during the term of the House, the court said.

Mr Justice Anand said, “The ‘privilege’ of continuing as a minister for ‘six months’ without being an elected member is only a one-time slot for the individual concerned during the term of the legislative assembly concerned.

“It exhausts itself if the individual is unable to get himself elected within the period of grace of ‘six consecutive months’,” he said.

Terming the grace period as personal to the individual, the court said, “It is he who must cease to be a minister if he does not get elected during the period of six months. The privilege is not of the Chief Minister on whose advice the individual is appointed.”

“Therefore, it is not permissible for different Chief Ministers to appoint the same individual as minister, without him getting elected during the term of the same assembly,” it said.

“The change of a Chief Minister, during the term of the same assembly would, therefore, be of no consequence so far as the individual is concerned,” the Chief Justice said.

Mr Tej Prakash Singh was first appointed as minister on September 9, 1995 on the advice of the then Punjab Chief Minister Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, though he was not a MLA. He failed to get elected within six months and resigned from the ministership on March 9, 1996.

During the term of the same Assembly, there was a change of leadership of the ruling party and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was appointed the Chief Minister. She again appointed Mr Tej Prakash Singh as a minister on November 23, 1996.

This was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court by one Mr S.R. Chaudhury on the ground that it was violative of constitutional provisions. The high court had dismissed the petition without issuing notice to the respondents.

On appeal being filed in the Supreme Court, it was held that reappointment of Mr Tej Prakash Singh was “invalid and unconstitutional”.

He said, “Article 164(4) is at best only in the nature of an exception to the normal rule of only members of the legislature being ministers, restricted to a short period of six consecutive months”.

Mr Justice Anand said, “This exception is essentially required to be used to meet extraordinary situation and must be strictly construed and sparingly used”. PTI

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