SC notice to Madhya Pradesh CM on plea challenging cabinet size
New Delhi, July 23, 2020
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his government on a plea by former Assembly Speaker N. P. Prajapati challenging the appointment of 28 more ministers, as it violated the ceiling on the maximum strength of the council of ministers fixed under the Constitution.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S. A. Bobde, Justices A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian sought a response from the state government as senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, representing Prajapati, contended that the appointment of 28 ministers in Madhya Pradesh violates the Constitution's Article 164 (1A).
According to this Article, the total number of Ministers, including the Chief Minister, in the Council of Ministers in a state, shall not exceed 15 per cent of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of that state.
The plea contended that the 230-strong Madhya Pradesh Assembly currently has 206 members, therefore respondents (Governor, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and MP Government) could not have appointed more than 31 ministers, but the total strength of council of ministers including the Chief Minister is now 34.
Chouhan had expanded his ministry in July, inducting 28 new members. Many of these were former Congress MLAs who brought down the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in the state, by resigning from their seats and joining the BJP.
Prajapati's plea claimed that the respondents have misinterpreted the dictum of Article 164 (1A) to be 15 per cent of the total strength of the Legislative Assembly, which is 230.
The plea has also put forward a legal question, whether the cap of 15 per cent of the total members of the Legislative Assembly would be examined as per the current members of the House, or the total seats in the House?
The plea said if 15 percent is applicable on total seats in the House, then it would be 34.5, and if it is read as per the present number of members of the House, then it would 30.9/31.
The plea pointed out that with two deaths and also the resignation of 22 MLAs from Assembly, there are 206 members and 24 seats are vacant.