Mah: Two-minister govt. passes over 700 orders in 30 days
Article 164 1(A) of the Constitution says the Council of Ministers in a State should not have less than 12 ministers.
A total of 749 Government Resolutions (GRs) were passed by Maharashtra’s newly formed two-man government between June 30 and July 30, 2022. The government has not yet expanded beyond Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. However, the lack of clarity on cabinet expansion has not stopped the new government from making hurried decisions and passing several GRs, before the Supreme Court hearing on the fate of the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs scheduled on August 1.
Article 163 of the Indian Constitution says there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion. Article 164 1(A) says that the total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a State shall not exceed 15 percent of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that State: Provided that the number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister in a State, shall not be less than 12.
“The 91st Constitutional amendment clearly states that there cannot be less than 12 ministers. The Constitution clearly says there should be a council of ‘ministers’ with the CM. See the wordings, it’s plural - ministers. That means just one minister (Fadnavis) and the CM cannot make major cabinet decisions. There are only two people making decisions in the state at the moment. So technically, it does not fulfill the requirement of Article 163 itself,” Adv. Nitish Nawasagaray said.
Maharashtra Congress General Secretary and Chief Spokesperson Atul Londhe called the current situation in the state “a great loss to Maharashtra”.
“The state has been suffering because of the uncertainty and lack of ministers. Maharashtra saw excess rainfall earlier this year, farmers faces losses. There was repeat sowing. But there was no minister to oversee any of this. Panchnamas of the losses have not been completed yet. None of the districts have guardian ministers, the bureaucrats have been left to their own means,” Londhe said describing the state of chaos.
The #EknathShinde-led #Maharashtra government, which came to power after a high-voltage political drama, is completing one month in office but there is still no clarity on when the Cabinet expansion will take place. pic.twitter.com/Dwwxope5bI— Talora Maahi (@TaloraMaahi) July 30, 2022
He also said that the new government seems to be more interested in overturning the decisions of the previous government than making positive decisions themselves.
“This is turning out to be ‘Postpone’ and ‘Cancel’ government. All they did since coming to power was overturn or stay previous notifications. Several GRs issued earlier have been stayed. The work that was allotted earlier has been stopped. Work has come to a standstill,” Londhe adds.
Meanwhile, the ANI news agency quoted CM Eknath Shinde earlier on Sunday, wherein he claimed that allocation for ministries for state cabinet formation will be decided as soon as possible. He also added that he along with the Deputy CM was working on the growth of the state.
One of the major decisions made by the Shinde-Fadnavis government within hours of swearing-in was overturning the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s decision to shift the Metro III car shed to Kanjurmarg from Aarey. The new government, without batting an eye, decided that the car shed will go back to Aarey, which has triggered fresh protests to save Aarey. Further, it also made decisions to revive the Jalyukt Shivar Scheme, reduce the price of petrol by Rs 5 per litre and diesel by Rs 3 per litre and restore the pension scheme for political activists imprisoned during the Emergency. The government also gave all clearances for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project and withdrew cases against those who were booked for violating covid guidelines till March 2022.
Londhe points out that such overturning of decisions could set a dangerous precedent for the state. “If this gives a message that when the government changes, the decisions also change, it could stunt the state’s development forever. Government is a continuity, no matter which party forms it. If this continuity is disturbed, it hinders the development. Shinde government is doing exactly this,” he added.
The state has 36 districts and six revenue divisions. Yet in the period of merely a month, the CM and the Deputy CM have managed to generate 749 GRs for 31 departments. Moreover, there have been four cabinet meetings of the non-existent cabinet.
“But technically, it cannot be a meeting of the government. Because as per the requirement of Article 164 1(A), there should be at least 12 ministers. Even if we say we want to apply any exceptions here, then there should be at least three people, the CM and at least two cabinet ministers,” Nawasagaray adds.
Thus, he adds, if all these GRs are challenged in court, they could be struck down, as they have no constitutional legality.
“All these GRs actually affect the rights and liabilities of hundreds of people. The idea of parliamentary democracy that we have the Westminster model, says that the CM and the Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to the House. But only two people are governing here. This goes against the principles of parliamentary democracy. It will be like a dictatoriall manner,” Nawasagaray said.
In 2008, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prem Kumar Dhumal government in Himachal Pradesh comprised 10 people only. Virendra Kumar had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court against this.
“At the time, the SC had made it clear that the amendment was made to ensure that the governments do not create a jumbo government. Now as far as the minimum number of ministers is considered, it is alright if the government has 10 ministers instead of 12. But at the same time, it also said that if the government had just four ministers in the council of ministers, then the PIL could have been considered,” Nawasagaray added.