New Delhi, May 7: Asserting that it violated the concept of equality, the Supreme Court on Monday struck down the amendment to a Uttar Pradesh legislation which allowed former chief ministers retain government accommodation even after demitting office.
A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the amendment in the legislation was ultra vires to the Constitution since it transgresses the concept of equality under the Constitution. The bench said the amendment was "arbitrary, discriminatory" and violates the concept of equality. The apex court said that once such persons demit public office, there is nothing to distinguish them from the common man.
The apex court had on April 19 reserved its verdict on an NGO's plea challenging amendments to the UP legislation allowing ex-chief ministers of the state to continue occupying government bungalows. The top court had earlier observed that if the provision, which has been challenged by NGO Lok Prahari, was held invalid, then similar legislation in other states might also come under challenge.
The NGO had challenged the amendments made by the erstwhile Akhilesh Yadav government to the 'UP Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1981'. It had also challenged another UP law of 2016 called 'The Allotment of Houses under Control of the Estate Department Bill-2016' to regulate the allotment of government accommodation to trusts, journalists, political parties, speaker and deputy speaker of legislative assembly, judicial officers and government officials.
The court had earlier said that it had given an opportunity to the Centre and all states to express their views on the issue since its verdict might have an impact on any such rules framed by other states or the union government. Earlier, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who was assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, in his suggestions given to the top court had said that after persons holding top constitutional posts demit office, they were like ordinary private citizens and were not entitled to official accommodation.
The apex court had sought the UP government's response in November 2016, after the plea claimed that state government has sought to skirt the Supreme Court's verdict of August 1, 2016 by amending the law. In its 2016 verdict, the apex court had held that the practice of alloting government bungalows to former chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh was bad in law and they should hand over possession of the bungalows occupied by them in two months.
It had also said the state government should recover appropriate rent from the occupants of these bungalows for the period during their "unauthorised occupation".