Coming straight to the core issue, let me begin at the very beginning by first and foremost expressing my utmost satisfaction to note that the Supreme Court just recently on May 7, 2018 in the landmark case of Lok Prahari Through Its General Secretary v The State Of Uttar Pradesh & Ors in the writ petition (C) No. 864 of 2016 struck down a provision of an Uttar Pradesh law titled Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1981 that let former Chief Ministers retain government bungalows even after they have demitted office and their term ends! Why should the former UP Chief Ministers continue to enjoy the privileges even long after they have demitted office and their term ends? Why should they not be made to vacate government bungalows just like we see in the case of other public servants?
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform here that a two-Judge Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi minced no words absolutely in stating categorically that, “Chief Ministers are at par with the common citizens once they demit office and allowing them to retain their bungalows at public expense would amount to creating a separate class of citizens.” Who can deny or dispute this? Justice Ranjan Gogoi further minced no words in putting across very straight that, “The Chief Minister once he or she demits the office, is at par with the common citizen, even if by virtue of the office held the person may be entitled to security and other protocols. But allotment of government bungalow, to be occupied during lifetime, would not be guided by the constitutional principle of equality.” It is most striking to note that despite having sharp political differences and being at loggerheads with each other, all leaders of different political parties were united in backing this unjustified privilege conferred by leaders on themselves!
But this landmark ruling should not be restricted to just UP alone. It must be applied to all States. Also, this rule must be extended to former Presidents and former Prime Ministers as was asked by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium from the Bench! Only then will it serve its true purpose of checking gross abuse of huge bungalows by those high dignitaries who continue occupying such sprawling bungalows even decades after they cease to hold any office thus depriving others who rightfully deserve to occupy it! In US, even the former Presidents have to vacate official bungalows! Same should be the case in India also! Just like beacons on cars for VIPs has been done away with, this bungalows for ex-CM, ex-PM, ex-MLA, ex-MP, ex-President and ex-Governor among others too should be discarded! No doubt, the Apex Court verdict is certainly landmark and laudable which must be fully and firmly implemented not just in UP alone but also in all the states in India uniformly so that a loud and clear message goes out to all politicians that perks and privileges cannot be in perpetuity!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.