Electoral Reforms In India

Goan politician accorded Lifetime Rank of Cabinet Minister

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 91st Amendment

Mains level : Read the attached story

Recently a politician in Goa was accorded the lifetime status of the rank of Cabinet Minister who was, a six-time Chief Minister of Goa and a legislator for a full 50 years. Hence a PIL has been filed in the High Court of Bombay at Goa.

What is the “Lifetime Status of the rank of Cabinet minister”?

  • The former Chief Minister and former Speaker (of the Goa Legislative Assembly) had completed 50 years as a legislator.
  • The Cabinet decided that in future also, those who complete 50 years and hold posts like CM and Speaker will be given the Cabinet status even after their retirement.

What is the PIL against this designation?

  • The PIL has urged the High Court to quash the notification of the government under which the person was conferred with the “lifetime status”.
  • It has contended that Goa has a 12-member Cabinet, and the conferment of Cabinet status results in the number of Cabinet ranks rising to 13, which exceeds the ceiling mandated by the Constitution.
  • This ceiling was mandated by the 91st Amendment which aimed to prevent jumbo Cabinets and the resultant drain on the public exchequer.

How the 91st Amendment Act does relates here?

  • The Constitution (91st Amendment) Act, 2003 inserted clause 1A in Article 164.
  • It says the total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a State shall not exceed 15% of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that State.
  • It provided a condition that the number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister in a State shall not be less than twelve.
  • There are 40 seats in the unicameral Goa Assembly.

Why is the designation problematic?

  • A cabinet minister for life would be entitled to 12 staff members – OSDs, support staff, peons, driver – which would cost the exchequer Rs 90 lakh a year.
  • The ‘Cabinet’ rank would also entitle him to government accommodation, vehicle and unlimited free travel for him and his spouse.
  • This is just none other case but political self-appeasement.

Back2Basics: 91st Constitutional Amendment Act, 2003

  • It made the provisions to limit the size of Council of Ministers, to debar defectors from holding public offices, and to strengthen the anti-defection law.
  • The total number of ministers, including the Prime Minister, in the Central Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha.
  • A member of either house of Parliament belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.
  • The total number of ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a state shall not exceed 15% of the total strength of the legislative Assembly of that state.
  • But, the number of ministers, including the Chief Minister, in a state shall not be less than 12.
  • A member of either House of a state legislature belonging to any political party who is disqualified on the ground of defection shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a minister.
  • The provision of the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) pertaining to exemption from disqualification in case of split by one-third members of legislature party has been deleted.
  • It means that the defectors have no more protection on grounds of splits.

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