New Delhi: Amid vociferous opposition, the Punjab assembly on Thursday passed a legislation excluding the six ruling Congress MLAs appointed as advisers to the chief minister from the office-of-profit category.
The Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2019, was presented in the House by Punjab minister Brahm Mohindra on the concluding day of the special session of the Vidhan Sabha.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh was not present in the House on Thursday.
With this amendment, six Congress legislators – Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Kuljit Singh Nagra, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Kushaldeep Dhillon and Tarsem Singh D.C. – will not be disqualified for holding the office of profit.
The Punjab government had appointed six minister-rank advisers to the chief minister.
Five of them were given the status of a cabinet minister while the sixth legislator was given the rank of the minister of state.
Four MLAs – Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Sangat Singh Gilzian and Inderbir Singh Bolaria – were designated as advisers (political) while Kuljeet Singh Nagra was appointed as the adviser (planning). Tarsem Singh D.C. was given the designation of the adviser (planning) with the rank of minister of state.
After the Bill was presented, the leader of the opposition and AAP MLA Harpal Singh Cheema criticised the state government, saying the move violated provisions of the constitution and put an additional burden on the exchequer.
Demanding the withdrawal of the Bill, Cheema asked how the state government would bear the financial burden on account of these appointments when it had “no money” to fulfil its poll promises and pay pending dearness allowance of its employees.
After raising slogans against the government, members of the the AAP staged a walk out in protest against the legislation.
Akali leader Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who also opposed to the law, said it was against the 91st amendment to the constitution, which stated that the total number of ministers should not exceed 15 per cent of the total strength of the state assembly.
“The state government brought this law to make its favourites happy. If they are so capable, then the government should have made them ministers,” said Dhindsa, demanding the withdrawal of the Bill.
He further said the legislation was not “legally tenable”.
Lok Insaaf Party MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains also chastised the state government for bringing the law, pointing out that the state had a debt burden of Rs 2.50 lakh crore and was unable to pay salary to its employees. He further accused the Congress-led government of not fulfilling its poll promises.
Facing the heat, Congress MLA Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, who has also been appointed as an adviser to the chief minister, rose from his seat said there would be no burden of the move on the exchequer. “If there is a burden in future, I will never return to this assembly,” said Warring, accusing the opposition of trying to hog the limelight.
Lashing out at the AAP, Warring said the party MLAs availed the facility of car and gunmen after it came to power in Delhi despite the fact they had been opposing the same earlier. He also targeted the SAD members, saying they had spent a huge sum of money on choppers during their regime.
He also entered a heated argument with Lok Insaf Party MLAs Simarjeet Singh Bains and Balvinder Singh Bains, saying both brothers had taken around Rs 34 lakh in reimbursement from the state government.
After the House was adjourned sine die, a heated argument took place between Warring and the Bains brothers.
Warring was joined by other Congress MLAs, including Balbir Singh Sidhu, Kulbeer Zira and Khushaldeep Singh Dhillon.
The AAP itself is no stranger to controversy when it comes to office of profit cases. The Election Commission had decided to disqualify 20 AAP MLAs who were serving as parliamentary secretaries. This decision had been widely criticised at the time, with people saying that the EC was acting at the behest of the Central government. The Delhi high court seemed to agree, and on March 23 set aside the EC’s orders.
(With PTI inputs)