6 months passed,Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu Govt in Himachal is 3 short of constitutionally mandated strength of 12 Ministers
Himachal Pradesh Government Falls Short of Constitutionally Mandated Minister Strength, Await Judicial Clarification
It has been six months since Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu of the Congress party expanded his Council of Ministers in Himachal Pradesh, but the government is still three ministers short of the constitutionally mandated strength of 12.
According to an advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Hemant Kumar, no authoritative pronouncement has been made by the Supreme Court or any High Court regarding whether the total number of ministers in a state can be less than 12.
Under Article 164(1)(A) of the Constitution of India, the total number of ministers in a state, including the Chief Minister, should not exceed 15 percent of the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly. In the case of Himachal Pradesh, this would be 10.2 or 11 ministers, rounded off. However, the first proviso to Article 164(1)(A) states that the number of ministers, including the Chief Minister, should not be less than 12.
The use of the word “shall” in the proviso suggests that it is mandatory for the Council of Ministers in every state, including Himachal Pradesh, to have a minimum of twelve members.
If we look into a similar case from May 2008 when the PK Dhumal-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh had only 10 ministers, including the Chief Minister. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court, where the then Chief Justice of India, Justice KG Balakrishnan, orally observed that there is no violation of the law if a state’s Council of Ministers has fewer members than the lower limit of 12.
However, it is important to note that there has been no authoritative judicial pronouncement or binding precedent by any Constitutional Court in India, including the Supreme Court or any High Court, regarding whether the total strength of the Council of Ministers in a state can be less than 12.
Last year, also the Aam Aadmi Party-led government in Punjab, which initially had 11 ministers, including the Chief Minister. The strength was later reduced to 10 when a minister was sacked, but it was eventually raised to 15 with the induction of new ministers. As of today, the Punjab government has 16 ministers.
The issue of whether the total strength of the Council of Ministers in a state can be less than 12 remains unresolved, awaiting a definitive judicial clarification.