Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of PIL petitions challenging the rules for appointment of personal staff of chief minister, ministers, chief whip and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, saying it is a policy matter of the government.
Dismissing the pleas, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly observed that “it is always desirable to have a cadre strength to serve the chief minister, minister, leader of opposition and the chief whip.”
Observing that good governance relates to the political and institutional process that are vitally required to protect the interest of citizens in common and to achieve the goals of development, the court said therefore, to attain good governance and good practices in civil, cultural, economic, political, justice, social right, accountability, etc., the government in power has to modulate its activities and discharge its functions, taking into account its political theories, election manifesto, and perceptions.
“For that, it must have a good and loyal team to its satisfaction producing results that meet the needs of the community at large, and to provide timely instructions and guidance from the political and social angle”, it said.
The public interest writ petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the appointment of personal staff to the office of the chief minister, ministers, leader of the opposition, and the chief whip by the Special Rules formulated in 1959 and amended from time to time.
The court said that a process of selection of personal staff by public advertisement may not be possible, since that would not serve the purpose of conducting a selection of personal staff so as to have the confidence of the ministers for the maintenance of the confidentiality, trust and faith in the matter of discharging duties.
“In that view of the matter, the Special Rules made by prescribing the method of appointment on the basis of the selection conducted by the ministers cannot be said to be bad or illegal,” it observed.
The court said insofar as the pension and family pension to the personal staffs directly recruited is concerned, it is clear and evident that state government is providing ex gratia pension to the other government employees who are having service of less than 10 years’ minimum qualification, even up to the persons having the service of three years and below.
The appointment of such personal staff directly recruited is co-terminus with the service of the ministers and therefore, it is a class of employment made in order to serve the ministers during their tenure, which cannot be equated with a regular process of recruitment in terms of the General Rules applicable for appointment and conditions of service.
“Therefore, to put it short, the procedure prescribed in the Special Rules, 1959 is necessitated to tackle certain situations due to administrative exigencies, and contingencies; and to achieve the said object and purpose a legislation with a distinct class is inevitable in the larger public interest.
“Looking from that angle, it cannot be said that the Special Rules, 1959 suffers from any vice of illegality and arbitrariness to interfere with the principles of law adumbrated in Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India,” the court observed.
The pleas were filed in the wake of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan raising the issue of personal staff of ministers being eligible for pension after two years of service.
The Governor had termed the practice of giving pension to personal staff of ministers just after completing two years as a gross violation and abuse of authority and misuse and abuse of money of the people of Kerala.