Supreme Court: Striking down Section 4(3) of the Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1981, as amended in 2016, the bench of Ranjan Gogoi and R. Banumathi, JJ held:
“The Chief Minister, once he/she demits the office, is at par with the common citizen, though by virtue of the office held, he/she may be entitled to security and other protocols. But allotment of government bungalow, to be occupied during his/her lifetime, would not be guided by the constitutional principle of equality.”
State of Uttar Pradesh had argued before the Court that the infringement of the equality clause under Article 14 of the Constitution of India is a far cry as there is an intelligible differentia to justify a separate and exclusive treatment to former Chief Ministers who form a class of their own.
The Court, however, held that the allocation of government bungalows to constitutional functionaries enumerated in Section 4(3) of the 1981 Act after such functionaries demit public office(s) would be clearly subject to judicial review on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The Court said:
“such bungalows constitute public property which by itself is scarce and meant for use of current holders of public offices.”
Holding that Section 4(3) of the 1981 Act recognizing former holders of public office as a special class of citizens is arbitrary and discriminatory, the Court said:
“Undoubtedly, Section 4(3) of the 1981 Act would have the effect of creating a separate class of citizens for conferment of benefits by way of distribution of public property on the basis of the previous public office held by them. Once such persons demit the public office earlier held by them there is nothing to distinguish them from the common man. The public office held by them becomes a matter of history and, therefore, cannot form the basis of a reasonable classification to categorize previous holders of public office as a special category of persons entitled to the benefit of special privileges.”
Background of the case:
- Former Chief Ministers of the State of Uttar Pradesh continued to occupy their official accommodation even after demitting office, in clear breach of Section 4 of the 1981 Act.
- Lok Prahari filed a writ petition before the High Court of Allahabad.
- P. Ex-Chief Ministers Residence Allotment Rules, 1997 framed during the pendency of the petition to provide for allotment of government accommodation to former Chief Ministers.
- Petition amended to challenge the validity of the provisions of the 1997 Rules.
- Petition closed by the High Court upon statement made by the State of Uttar Pradesh that former Chief Ministers would be henceforth allotted only Type V bungalows and that too on payment of rent etc.
- Section 4 of the 1981 Act was amended in the year 2016. Under Section 4(3) brought in by the 2016 Amendment, former Chief Ministers of the State became entitled to allotment of government accommodation for their life time.
- Amendment challenged before the Supreme Court.
- Section 4(3) of the Uttar Pradesh Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1981, as amended in 2016 held unconstitutional
[Lok Prahari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 491, decided on 07.05.2018]