Par Scretaries and Cabinet status: HC to hear PIL on Jan 28

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Panaji, Jan 7 (UNI) The Bombay High Court today accepted an application filed by social activist Advocate Aires Rodrigues for an early hearing and disposal of his PIL, challenging the appointments of two Parliamentary Secretaries and conferring Cabinet status on Economic Development Corporation Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Goa Planning Board and Commissioner of NRI affairs, and posted the matter for January 28.

The order was passed by Justice D B Bhosale and Justice N A Britto of the court in Goa.

Earlier, on October 22 last year, the court while admitting the petition, had directed that the matter be taken up for final hearing on November 26. But as the matter had been appearing very low on the board, Adv Rodrigues moved an application for early hearing.

He had filed the PIL challenging the appointments of Nilkanth Harlankar and Francisco Silveira as Parliamentary Secretaries and conferring cabinet status on Economic Development Corporation chairman Agnelo Fernandes, Deputy Chairman of Goa Planning Board Dr Wilfred De Souza and Commissioner of NRI affairs Eduardo Faleiro.

Pleading for an early hearing, Mr Rodrigues today submitted to the court that the appointment of the parliamentary secretaries and conferment of rank/status of a Cabinet Minister to others was a fraud on the Constitution of India and in violation of the 91st Amendment, which was meant to restrict the size of the Cabinet and to prevent jumbo size cabinets entailing huge financial burden on the State Exchequer.

Strongly opposing the early hearing of the PIL, Goa's Advocate General Subodh Kantak told the court that there were other more important matters awaiting final hearing.

Adv Rodrigues, however, argued that if his PIL was not heard expeditiously, it would frustrate his very purpose and further deplete the public exchequer.

He further submitted that the matter was of an urgent nature and that it vitally affected the public at large, as the respondents were continuing to enjoy Cabinet rank and status at the cost of the public exchequer.

It was nothing but a back door entry for MLAs and high party functionaries for additional Cabinet berths, when the Constitution of India had itself fixed the number of such Cabinet posts, the intention being to do away with wasteful expenditure arising from jumbo cabinets, he stated.

Arguments on the PIL were heard by the High Court, comprising Justices R M S Khandeparkar and R S Mohite on August 22 and the matter was reserved for orders.

However, the court did not pass any orders but adjourned the matter by stating that it would not be appropriate to deal with the matter as a similar case related to Assam was pending before the Supreme Court.

In 2005, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had also set aside the appointments of Parliamentary Secretaries.

Later on September 11, the High Court, comprising Justice R S Mohite and Justice N A Britto, granted liberty to Adv Rodrigues to move a Transfer Petition before the Supreme Court so that his PIL could be heard along with the Assam Petition.

However, disposing the Transfer Petition on October 12, Supreme Court Justices S H Kapadia and B Sudershan Reddy, observed that the ends of justice would be met if the matter was heard and decided by the Bombay High Court at Goa.

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