18 May 2022  |   07:00am IST

Will the high court strike down lifetime cabinet rank for Rane?

Olav Albuquerque

Whether the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court will strike down the government notification conferring lifetime cabinet rank on six-times chief minister Pratapsingh Rane remains to be seen. This notification issued on January 7, 2022, will allegedly deplete the state exchequer of Rs 1.15 crore per annum without any specific duties being assigned to Pratapsingh Rane, according to a PIL filed in the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court which has been admitted and kept for final disposal on June 21.

While holding the lifetime cabinet rank, he can access top-secret documents under the Official Secrets Act, 1927 after he takes an oath not to reveal their contents, according to advocate-activist Aires Rodrigues. But no reliefs were granted because the judiciary has drawn a laxman rekha between the courts and the government which it does not cross. Law Minister Kiren Rijuju announced this when the Supreme Court stayed the sedition law.

The Goa government has chosen to confer a benefit on this former chief minister which the founding fathers of the Constitution never envisaged. Apart from the fact that there appears no Act made by Parliament or the Goa Legislative Assembly to legitimise the conferring of such a lifetime cabinet rank on Pratapsingh Rane, the approval of the finance ministry was allegedly not taken before the resolution was passed, according to advocate-activist Aires Rodrigues.

To be fair to him, Pratap Singh Rane is a distinguished politician who was the Goa chief minister six times and also an Opposition leader apart from being an MLA for over 50 years. The two-judge bench which admitted the PIL, observed “arguable issues are raised.” This activist-advocate has alleged the Congress nominated Pratapsingh Rane from his stronghold of Poriem where he has always won. To neutralise this certainty, the BJP announced the nomination of Rane’s daughter-in-law from the same constituency to make him withdraw from the contest.

To be sure, Rane allegedly announced at the last minute in the newspapers, he was retiring from politics forcing the Congress to substitute Rane with a relatively unknown candidate who lost the Poriem seat to Rane’s daughter-in-law as per the strategy of the ruling party.

Although politicians blare that such decisions have been taken by the people, this is a fallacy. For the people elect their representatives who foist their decisions on the people which is based upon political chicanery.

Taxpayers’ money will be used to pay the salaries of 18 personnel, the car with chauffeur and other expenditure for Pratapsingh Rane’s staff. But the cabinet rank status has no duties apart from the perks and the salary, reminiscent of the Indian Rajahs of yore whose privy purses were abolished by Indira Gandhi in 1971.

The BJP cabinet allegedly hurriedly resolved on the afternoon of January 6, 2022, to confer all the benefits of lifetime cabinet rank to those MLAs who served for at least eight continuous terms in the Goa Legislative Assembly and held the position of the chief minister. Political opportunism overrides both the Constitution and the law.

A clear reading of this resolution leads to the inference it was tailor-made to suit Pratapsingh Rane because he was the only MLA who was a chief minister six times and also an MLA for over 50 years. Politics is the art of subordinating the law as a quid pro quo for those who ensured a victory for the ruling party.

(Dr Olav Albuquerque holds a Ph.D in law and is a senior journalist-cum-advocate of the Bombay High Court.)


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