Prasanna Mohanty | February 2, 2010
Going even by all the extra-constitutional arrangements made in the past to keep governments afloat, the Meghalaya case is unparalleled in its sheer absurdity. The state now boasts of three more men holding "the rank and status of the chief minister", in addition to D D Lapang, the constitutionally appointed CM.
If you think the brouhaha over the matter would embarrass Lapang, you are wrong. He simply dismissed it as "nothing new" and told reporters
in Shillong that this had been going on in the state for the past 15 years! He was quoted as saying that "leaders like B B Lyngdoh, S C
Marak, E K Mawlong and even P A Sangma were given that (chief minister) status by past governments".
But it is a cause of worry. To T S R Subramaniam, former cabinet secretary, it is a clear case of bad governance. "It is failure of the government....a case of taking governance very lightly. The chief minister is not a rank but a post. Therefore, it is a misnomer to say that someone can have the rank and status of a chief minister," he says. Drawing a distinction between a deputy chief minister (which post also does not have constitutional sanction) and someone getting the rank and status of a chief minister, Subramaniam says the Meghalaya case should be challenged in court.
Subhash C Kashyap, former secretary-general, however, thinks that there may not be a legal flaw in the case and recalls how when Devi Lal's appointment as deputy prime minister (again without constitutional sanction) was challenged, the Supreme Court did not strike it down but observed that it was a mere "internal description" and had "no power" attached to the post.
Nevertheless, the move can be challenged in the court, Kashyap points out, on the ground of "frittering away public money" by giving perks
and privileges of the chief minister to people who have no such constitutional standing.
It may be recalled that such extra-constitutional arrangements were made first way back in 1967 when Morarji Desai was appointed deputy
prime minister to give stability to Indira Gandhi's government. Devi Lal became deputy prime minister twice for the very same reason, under
V P Singh and Chandrasekhar. Even L K Adani, for that matter. There have been several such instances but they don't raise eyebrows anymore, not until it reaches a new level of absurdity as in the case of Meghalaya.
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