The Uttarakhand High Court has declared the Uttarakhand Former Chief Ministers Facility Act as ultra vires, as it allows the former Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand to stay in government bungalows without paying rent.
A division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe has stated that the chief ministers cannot be distinguished from the common man once they demit their office, since the public office that they held becomes a matter of history. The previous of holders of public office cannot form a special category of persons who are entitled to benefit of special privileges.
The Uttarakhand High Court in March 2019 had directed the Ex-Chief Ministers to pay market rent for the bungalows that were allotted to them, and for the other amenities provided to them by the State government after they had left the office as CM.
The Uttarakhand Government, however enacted the Uttarakhand Former Chief Ministers Facility Act, 2019 in January, 2020 exempting the former CM’s from paying rent for bungalows allotted to them by the Government.
An organisation, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra Rlek filed a petition before High Court stating that the act was enacted only for the purpose of statutory- over ruling, only to overrule the judgement of the High Court.
The High Court has found that any attempt by the State Legislature to enact a law only to overrule a judicial decision was violative of the doctrine of separation of powers, a principle entrenched in the Indian Constitution.
According to the High Court, the Act only confers undeserved largesse on the former Chief Ministers, and does not serve any public purpose. If any discrimination is made between these former Chief Ministers and the common man, then that would be violative of the Right to Equality as granted by the Indian Constitution under Article 14. The Act creates former Chief Ministers as a different class and treats them differently from other citizens, without any reasonable basis, and provides them benefits without any adequate determining principle and therefore is excessive and grossly disproportionate.
The Court also upheld the locus standi of the petitioner in filing this PIL, and rejected the State Government’s contention that stated otherwise. The Court stated that the writ petition was neither actuated by maline nor was the result of any personal grudge against the Ex- Chief Ministers, and since the petition was filed in larger public interest, it cannot be said that the petitioners didn’t have enough standing to file the petition.
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