Imphal: A group of senior Congress MLAs led by the leader of Congress Legislative Party Okram Ibobi Singh submitted a petition to the Governor of Manipur on Friday for disqualification of 12 MLAs of the ruling government for holding Office of Profit when they served as Parliamentary Secretaries to assist the Ministers of the Government of Manipur.
The team of the Congress leaders who met the Governor of Manipur at Raj Bhavan, here consisted of the former Chief Minister, former Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, former Ministers- Kh. Ranjit Singh, Govindas Konthoujam, Keisham Meghachandra and D.D. Thaissi. The petition was signed by D.D. Thaissi, a member of Manipur Legislative Assembly elected from 47-Karong Assembly Constituency.
The respondents MLA(s) of the petition are Leishangthem Susindro Meitei of Khurai Assembly Constituency , Nahakpam Indrajit of Kshetrigao, Lourembam Rameshor Meitei of Keirao, Thockchom Satyabrata Singh of Yaiskul, Heikham Dingo Singh of Sekmai, Dr. Sapam Ranjan of Konthoujam, Soibam Subhaschandra Singh of Naoriya Pakhanglakpa, Kongkham Robindro Singh of Mayang Imphal( all BJP MLAs), K. Leishiyo of Phungyar, Kashim Vashum of Chingai, Awangbow Newmai of Tamei(all NPF MLAs) and Ashab Uddin of Jiribam (independent MLA).
The petition mentioned that the Governor of Manipur invited the leader of the second largest party to form the Government with the help and support of smaller parties and that was how the BJP led government in the State of Manipur came into existence on 15-03-2017 and one of the INC MLAs without resigning from the INC was also sworn in as a Minister who later on was disqualified vide order dated 28-03-2020 issued by the Speaker, consistent with the observations made by the Apex Court in SLP (C)No.18659 of 2019.
The petition stated that the Chief Minister of Manipur in order to pacify and placate the disgruntled supporting MLAs who were left out from induction to the Council of Ministers, appointed the 12 respondents as Parliamentary Secretaries by invoking Section 3 of the Act of 2012 vide notification no 15/ 1/2017- CON dated 23- 03-2017 and by the same order the Parliamentary Secretaries so appointed were authorized to assist the Cabinet Ministers in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities . After taking oath as Parliamentary Secretaries by the respondents, they were allotted portfolios/departments like Ministers vide notification no.15/1/2017- CON dated 24-03-2017. This was followed by another order bearing No.345/29/2005-GAD/W dated 25-03-2017 by which official vehicles were allotted along with drivers to the respondents. Parliamentary Secretaries were also allotted office rooms at Secretariat vide three such orders dated 25-04-2017 ,30-03-2017 and 25-05-2017.The respondents drew their salaries as State Minister of State under the Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Manipur) Act , 1972.
It is also stated that the appointment of seven Parliamentary Secretaries were discontinued vide notification no.15/1/2017-CON dated 17-07-2017 and the appointment of the remaining five Parliamentary Secretaries were also discontinued vide another notification no.15/01/2017- CON dated 25-10-2017.
Similarly, Surajkumar Okram MLA challenged the Manipur Act of 2012 before the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur as illegal and unconstitutional by filing WP(C ) No. 122 of 2018. During the pendency of the said writ petition, the Manipur Government , in order to pluck the lacuna in the Act of 2012 enacted another Act in the name and style as ‘Manipur Parliamentary Secretary ( Appointment, Salary and Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions ) repealing Act, 2018 ( for short , the repealing Act,2018) published on 04-04-2018. The petitioner D D Thaisii along with Surajkumar Okram challenged the repealing Act, 2018 by filing a Writ Petition being W.P (C ) No 317 of 2018. The said writ petition was disposed of with some PILs which challenged the Act of 2012 before the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur by a common judgment and order passed on 17/09/2020.
The petition stated, “It is important to mention that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Bimolangshu Roy Case ( supra) has held and declared the Act of 2012 as invalid and unconstitutional for want of legislative competence of Manipur Legislative Assembly . No doubt, the aforesaid cases before the High Court of Manipur were contested by the State Government by filing Affidavit-in- opposition through the Chief Secretary, Government of Manipur. In addition to the above, the Hon’ble high Court of Manipur also held that the repealing Act,2018 is illegal and unconstitutional in as much as the Repealing Act ,2018 is co- extensive with the Act of 2012”.
The petition submitted that the respondents, before their discontinuation as Parliamentary secretaries availed of free electricity, free water supply, government employees as their staff, government vehicles with drivers, salaries and other financial allowances entitled to a Minister of State and these are all relatable and referable only to the Provisions of the Act of 2012.
It also submitted that the respondents who were appointed to the post of Parliamentary secretaries drew pay and allowances with pay slip system under the State Government thereby attracting disqualification for holding office of profit under the State Government of Manipur Clause(1) (a) of Article 191 of the Constitution of India. “There is no fetter or legal constraint in any form or manner in disqualifying the respondents once the Election Commission gives its opinion accepting the contention of the petitioner that the respondents have held office of profit during the relevant period” the representation stated.
The petition prayed that a copy of the petition accompanied by a forwarding letter from the office of the Governor be sent to the Election Commission seeking their opinion in terms of Article 192(2) of the Constitution of India, and once the opinion is obtained from the Election Commission, the Governor may act upon the opinion in terms of Article 192(1) of the Constitution of India. The petition further prayed that the Governor may direct the Governor’s Secretariat to inform the petitioner of any development on the petition and to furnish a copy of the opinion of the Election Commission in the advent of receiving such opinion.