Season's message from Goa to Didi

Mumbai, Dec. 14: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has won a Christmas invitation from Goa.

"I would invite Mamata Banerjee to come to Goa for Christmas and see with her own eyes how well-administered the state is without parliamentary secretaries," Aires Rodrigues said today.

The name is unlikely to crop up in the Bengal chief minister's appointments register. But Rodrigues may be a person of interest for Bengal parties as they battle it out over an act that empowers Mamata to appoint MLAs as parliamentary secretaries "of the rank and status of a minister of state or deputy minister".

Rodrigues, 52, is the activist-lawyer who thwarted a similar measure by the Goa government, though with a difference. Goa had pushed through the appointments of parliamentary secretaries on the back of an executive order but the Bengal government has sought to fortify itself by promulgating an act that will become a law when the governor signs it.

But Rodrigues, who moved the Goa bench of Bombay High Court and got two such appointments quashed in 2009, feels that even a law would not stand legal scrutiny as it goes against the constitutional ceiling on the number of ministers. With 44 ministers, Bengal has already hit the ceiling of 15 per cent of total members of the Assembly.

"The provision under Article 164 has been made specifically with the objective of restricting the number of cabinet ministers and preventing unnecessary expenditure. So, even if a bill has been passed by a state Assembly, it is still contrary to the constitutional mandate. This is exactly the issue in Assam where a bill has been passed, and it is pending before the courts. The Bengal bill too can be challenged in courts," Rodrigues told The Telegraph today.

A crucial question is whether the parliamentary secretaries "of the rank and status" of ministers of state can be counted as ministers or not. If the answer is in the affirmative, it will mean that the appointment of any parliamentary secretary will break the 15 per cent limit for Bengal.

The Goa judgment has dealt with this matter in no uncertain terms.

The judgment reads: "The restriction on the size of the council of ministers thus must not be unsettled by any indirect method when it is directly impermissible. Quando aliquid prohibetur ex directo, prohibetur et per obliquum (When anything is prohibited directly, it is prohibited also indirectly)…."

The court added: "It would not be permissible to… adopt an indirect method to defeat the golden figure stated by giving it a different nomenclature of 'parliamentary secretary' when, in fact, and, in terms of logical prudence, and even in terms of law, they would be ministers. Description of de jure parliamentary secretary, de facto is minister…."

The judges then reached a conclusion that can resonate on the Bengal firmament. "…All this leads to an irresistible conclusion that they are, in fact, ministers," the 108-page Goa judgment reads.

Based on Rodrigues' public interest litigation, then high court Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice N.A. Britto had set aside the appointment of two MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.

But a senior Bengal lawyer said the bill passed yesterday might stand the Mamata government in good stead on one count. The Bombay High Court bench had repeatedly asked the then Goa chief minister (Digambar Kamat of the Congress) from where he drew the power to administer the oath of secrecy to the parliamentary secretaries in the absence of a supporting law.

If the Bengal decision reaches the courts and a similar question comes up there, the state can point to the bill. Besides, unlike Bengal, Goa had made the appointments first and later issued the notification.

Rodrigues feels that the Bengal government should have waited for the outcome of the Assam case in the Supreme Court before pursuing the bill.

Whether Mamata accepts his Christmas invitation or not, Rodrigues will be busy in the immediate aftermath. His petition questioning the exclusion of the Goa governor from the Right to Information Act is scheduled for a hearing in the Supreme Court on January 3.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Bangalore vs Mumbai

On Now: Bangalore vs Mumbai

Bangalore elect to field against Mumbai at Dubai. More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as England coach

Moores gets second stint as England coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »