As Justice R.N. Laddha was on leave today, the Division Bench of the High Court will now on 4th May continue hearing the petition filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues challenging the constitutional validity of the notification issued on 7th January this year bestowing Lifetime Cabinet status on former Goa Chief Minister Pratapsingh Raoji Rane. At the last hearing on April 25th the Court admitted the petition filed by Adv. Rodrigues and gave the State and Pratapsingh Rane time to file their replies while fixing the matter for arguments on interim relief.
The Government while bestowing Pratapsingh Rane with lifetime cabinet status in January this year had wrongly claimed that he had completed 50 years as MLA when factually he hadn’t. Pratapsingh Rane would have been 50 years as MLA in March only if he had contested and won the Assembly elections held on February 14th this year.
Adv. Aires Rodrigues in his petition has drawn the High Court’s attention to the manner in which the Goa cabinet hurriedly resolved on 6th January this year to confer Pratapsingh Rane with an unprecedented lifetime Cabinet status. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane was also party to the January 6th cabinet decision as he did not abstain though the beneficiary of that cabinet decision was his father.
Adv. Rodrigues in his petition has pointed out that that the Constitution of India does not provide for conferring Cabinet status on any individual other than a current minister who is duly sworn in and that there is no law whereby Cabinet status can be granted to an individual, who was in the past a Minister.
Pointing out that under Article 164 of the Constitution the total strength of the Goa cabinet cannot exceed 12, Adv. Rodrigues in his petition has submitted that conferment of Cabinet status on Pratapsingh Rane results in the number of Cabinet ranks being 13 which exceeds the mandate of law.
Stating that the purpose of the 91st Amendment to the Constitution was to restrict the size of Cabinet to prevent the installation of jumbo cabinets and resultant huge drain on the public exchequer, Adv. Rodrigues has stated that conferring the Cabinet status to Pratapsingh Rane defeats the very purpose of the law and was a back door entry in wilful disobedience of the mandate of law.
Drawing the Court’s attention that there was no legal power vested in the Government for conferment of such status of Cabinet Minister and that it cannot be made in the garb of exercise of executive powers, Adv. Rodrigues in his petition has stated that the notification according Cabinet Status to Pratapsingh Rane was illegal, without jurisdiction, and void.
Expressing concern that Political patronage seems to be the order of the day, Adv. Rodrigues has further stated that the conferment of Cabinet status on Pratapsingh Rane was malafide, a colourable exercise of power in tearing hurry for political patronage and thus bad in law.
Adv. Rodrigues in his petition has also given the High Court complete details of BJP’s Goa in charge Devendra Fadnavis’s visit to meet Pratapsingh Rane at his residence on 21st September last year and to the 22nd December 2021 selection of Pratapsingh Rane as the Congress candidate from Poriem which he on 27th January this year declined to contest just days before the deadline to file the nominations for the Assembly elections which were held on 14th February this year.
Besides an official car, residence and free travel at the cost of the state, the 83 year old Pratapsingh Rane will now for life be entitled to 18 staff at his service. Two Officers on Special duty , one Advisor, one Under Secretary, two Private Secretaries, a Personal Assistant, three Junior Assistants , two Computer-cum- telephone operators, two drivers and four Multi Tasking staff. In addition he would be also entitled to two personal security officers and five policemen at his residence.