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Former CMs required to vacate government bungalows – Supreme Court

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Supreme Court on Monday, 7th April has ruled that ex-Chief Ministers are not allowed to stay in government bungalows and the amended Uttar Pradesh (UP) state law [UP Ministers (salaries, allowances & miscellaneous provisions) Act, 2016] was declared, “a legislative exercise based on irrelevant and legally unacceptable considerations, unsupported by any constitutional sanctity.”

Facts of the case

Today’s Supreme Court ruling found its basis on the 2016 verdict given by a three judges Division Bench comprising of Justices A R Dave, N V Ramana and R Banumathi who had held that “the 1997 rules (Ex-Chief Ministers Residence Allotment Rules, 1997) so far as they are not in consonance with the provisions of the 1981 Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, are bad in law.” The Court further remarked, “the impugned 1997 rules give largesse only to former chief ministers without any element of reasonableness. In our opinion, the 1997 rules, which permit the former chief ministers to occupy government bungalows for life cannot be said to be valid.”

Based on a plea filed by a UP-based NGO Lok Prahari, the Supreme Court judgment on August 1, 2016, had directed the ex-Chief Ministers to vacate any government bungalow or any government accommodation after 15 days from the date on which his term comes to an end. After the 2016 verdict of the Apex Court, Akhilesh Yadav government made amendments to the 1981 Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act believing “it would pass the top court’s scrutiny since its objection was technical in nature.” The amended UP Ministers (salaries, allowances & miscellaneous provisions) Act, 2016 gave entitlement to five ex-chief ministers, Rajnath Singh, Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and ND Tiwari to keep their government bungalows.

Questions placed before the Court

The questions that came up during the hearing of the case was based on the legality of the Act, the benefits deemed fit for the position of former chief ministers and what they are entitled to.

  • Whether former chief ministers be allowed to avail the facility of government bungalows?
  • Whether the 2016 amendments passed by the UP government should be considered valid?
  • Whether similar provisions in other states are applicable?
  • Whether the facility given to former chief ministers was similar to the facilities available for Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents?

Court verdict

Court-appointed amicus curiae Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium on Thursday, January 4, 2018, was presented with the questions that arose in this PIL. In his deposition advocate, Subramanium had suggested that “the said ministers who demitted office did not require public property.” He reiterated that the 2016 amendment to the UP law was “intended to overcome the top court’s August 2016 order of eviction of former chief ministers.” On the scope of the extension of the PIL to include other states, he proposed that the Supreme Court should hear the states concerned.

The two judges Division Bench comprising of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi held, “Section 4(3) of UP Ministers (salaries, allowances & miscellaneous provisions) Act, 2016 is unconstitutional. Such laws create a separate class. Once a public servant demits office there should be nothing to distinguish them from a common man.” The Court was clear on its contention that not only the amended law has no legal basis but further pointed out that “the Chief Minister, once they demit office, is at par with the common citizen, though by virtue of the office held, they may be entitled to security and other protocol. But the allotment of government bungalows, to be occupied during their lifetime, would not be guided by the constitutional principle of equality.”

Supreme Court’s decision and it’s impact

The largesse allowed to ex-Chief Ministers of any State should be in consonance with the principles of equality. Once a Chief Minister demits his position he is at par with a common citizen of the country and hence does not merit any special privileges in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Once again the Court upheld the provisions of our Constitution and championed the cause of equality and justice.

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