The Supreme Court has sought a response from the State Congress government in Punjab in connection with a petition challenging the appointment of poll strategist Prashant Kishor as principal adviser (cabinet rank) to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
The two-judge bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta on Thursday directed the matter to be listed after summer vacations. The bench was hearing the plea filed by Labh Singh, a retired boxing coach and Satinder Singh, a Chandigarh-based advocate.
Labh Singh had filed an appeal in the apex court challenging the Punjab & Haryana High Court order, dismissing his and another petitioner’s petition in which they submitted that the appointment of Kishor as Principal Advisor to the Chief Minister, that too in the rank and status of a Cabinet minister at the cost of public money, is not permissible.
Capt Amarinder had appointed Prashant Kishor as his principal adviser in March this year.
Advocate Baltej Singh Sidhu, representing Labh Singh, a retired boxing coach and the other petitioner, Satinder Singh, an advocate, contended before the top court that government may have any advisor with any particular expertise for governance purposes and questioned the validity of the order by the state government.
The petitioners submitted that Kishor’s appointment in the rank and status of a cabinet minister was a clear violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Advocate Baltej Singh Sidhu alleged that in Kishor’s appointment, no advertisement was issued, no interviews were conducted and no criteria was adopted.
“Kishor will be enjoying pay, perks and all facilities from the state exchequer. His appointment is contrary to the provisions in the Constitution,” the petitioners said.
“Had proper procedure been followed, more qualified and suitable persons could have been available. The appointment has been made in a clandestine and cloistered manner causing loss to millions of aspirants,” the petitioner added, furthering that article 16(1) of the Constitution provides that there shall be equal opportunity to all citizens in employment or appointment to any office under the state.
After hearing the argument, the SC two-judge bench ordered: “Issue notice returnable after the summer recess”.
For the uninitiated, on March 16 (Tuesday), the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed a plea challenging Prashant Kishor’s appointment noting that it was for the public to decide if the former’s appointment was a burden to the exchequer.
Punjab CM appoints Prashant Kishor as Principal Advisor ahead of Punjab Assembly polls
The HC decision came after Punjab CM Amarinder Singh declared on March 1 that poll strategist Prashant Kishor had been appointed as his principal advisor.
The Chief Minister’s Office said the cabinet had cleared the appointment and Kishor had been designated in the rank and status of a cabinet minister, adding that he would be paid Rs 1 as token honorarium.
Sharing the information of the same the CMO had then Tweeted that Prashant Kishor will also be given free fully-furnished government residence and camp office as admissible to a cabinet minister.
Attaching a copy of the order, the CMO furthered that besides being provided staff, including one private secretary and a personal assistant, Kishor will be entitled to medical facilities and reimbursement of medical expenses as admissible to a cabinet minister. His term of appointment will be co-terminus with the tenure of the present Punjab chief minister, as per the terms and conditions of his appointment.
Kishor had handled the Congress poll campaign in the 2017 Punjab assembly election when the party had come to power by bagging 77 seats in the 117-member house.
Kishor announces he is quitting his career as political strategist
Recently, after Mamata Banerjee’s Assembly poll victory, Kishor, who had been working as TMC’s political and poll strategist, declared that he is quitting I-PAC, his political advocacy company for pursuing another career.
Following the announcement, reports emerged that Kishor had decided to fire more than 85% of the almost 900 employees who were part of their campaigning team in the recently held West Bengal assembly elections. The IPAC-led by election strategist Prashant Kishor had devised the election campaigning for the incumbent Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and led to the third successive poll victory for the Mamata Banerjee-led party.
In another related significant development, IPAC has already started the process of recruiting people for “campaign management” in Bihar.
Though there was no clarity on his future endeavours, speculations are rife that Prashant Kishor is eyeing at restructuring his organisation to make a come back in Bihar.