Activist challenges government’s decision to hike MLA’s salaries, files PIL in Bombay HC

Activist challenges government's decision to hike MLA's salaries, files PIL in Bombay HC
Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Picture Courtesy: NMTV

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an activist in Bombay High Court has challenged Maharashtra government’s new bill, increasing salaries and pension of MLAs as well as ministers, citing financial burden on the state.

The bill raised the monthly salaries of sitting MLAs from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh, while awarding the ministers and ex-MLAs increased pension to match the one drawn by Chief Secretary and other senior IAS officers, said the PIL filed by activist Ketan Tirodkar. The PIL, filed on Monday, is slated to come up for hearing in due course.

According to the PIL, there are 288 Assembly constituencies in the state and the elections since the formation of Maharashtra have sent more than 2,000 MLAs in the House so far. In addition, there will be 288 added every five years.

Citing the existing financial burden on the state, the PIL said Maharashtra’s debt stood at Rs 3.79 lakh crore as on March 31, 2016, the highest among all the Indian states. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, according to the data compiled by RBI on total outstanding liabilities of state governments.

With a a total debt of Rs 2.30 lakh crore, Maharashtra became the most debt ridden state in the country in 2011. Prior to that, Uttar Pradesh, with a debit of Rs 2.29 lakh crore, was leading the list of debt-ridden states. Since 2011, the gap between the two states has steadily widened, according to the petition.

The petition further states that Maharashtra’s salary burden increased from Rs 22,879 crore in 2007 to Rs 79,941 crore in 2016.

Additionally, the pension payments jumped from Rs 4,682 crore to Rs 24,730 crore in the same period, while the interest burden on loans taken by the state government increased from Rs 12,932 crore in 2007 to Rs 28,220 crore in 2016.

Even as the state’s debt burden rises, the cash strapped government will have to spend another Rs 15,000 to 20,000 crore for implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations to its 19 lakh-odd employees, the PIL contended. According to the petitioner, every child born in Maharashtra has to bear the burden of Rs 26,185 as against Rs 14,000 in Uttar Pradesh.

The petitioner has urged the high court to direct the BJP-led state government to set aside the bill passed on August 5 and refrain from raising the salaries and pension of the MLAs and former legislators of the state.

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