Supreme Court Negates Misuse of Administrative Power in UPIn a major blow to the old school camaraderie and you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours culture that prevails between all political parties that makes them allow certain mutual concessions to lawmakers and other leaders of all parties, the Supreme Court today found that the practice of ex chief ministers occupying palatial, government-allotted houses in upscale addresses of Lucknow was improper and illegal. It directed six former CMs to vacate governments allotted houses within two months.
By Sunil Garodia
Lok Prahari, a UP based NGO had petitioned the apex court in this regard. The main contention of the NGO was that the ex-Chief Minister's Residence Allotment Rules, 1997 (non-statutory) (hereinafter called the Rules) were unconstitutional since all issues of benefits to ministers were governed by Uttar Pradesh (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1981 (hereinafter called the 1981 Act). Hence, those occupying such houses should be termed as trespassers as per the UP Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1972.
It is a mystery that the case, though listed for hearing many times, was heard for just one day in 2014 and the judgment was reserved, only to be given now. Hence, the case has been decided 12 years after it was filed and the judgment delivered 20 months after the one, only and final hearing. An earlier petition in this matter was disposed of without examining the validity of the Rules as the Additional Advocate General of UP had assured the court that the state would get the houses vacated.
The main decision in this order was about three things. Firstly, that the petitioner NGO had a locus standi in the case as a concerned body of citizens that was not acting out of any malafide interest. The court cited the case Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union (Regd) Sindri and Ors v Union of India and Ors when it was held that in the face of misuse of administrative power, public bodies do not enjoy immunity from challenge and a citizen or an organization having a concern deeper than that of a busybody have a right to ask the court to see if their petition against the administration is justiciable and such petitions are allowable under Article 226.
Secondly, a chief minister does not enjoy any special privileges after demitting office and is like any other ex minister. The court quoted from Section 2(e) of the 1981 Act which read 'Minister' means a member of the Council of Ministers of the Government of Uttar Pradesh and includes the Chief Minister, a Minister of State and a Deputy Minister of that State."
Thirdly, the above Rules were at variance with the 1981 Act where it was provided that all ministers (which term included the chief minister) had to vacate houses allotted to them within 15 days of remitting office. The court categorically said that whenever an administrative fiat like the Rules were at variance with a statutory provision like the 1981 Act, the latter will always prevail. The court also found the Rules to be in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
This is a landmark judgment that will prevent executive highhandedness and arbitrariness. There are many states apart from UP who have been allotting prime public residential spaces to ex chief ministers at nominal rents which are not vacated even after their death. This is blatant misuse of administrative power. Hopefully, this judgment will act as a deterrent.