The Delhi High Court today directed Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash and two other officers to appear before the committees of Delhi Legislative Assembly, which had issued notices to them, warning them of contempt if they did not do so.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru warned the Chief Secretary and two other IAS officers that the court could issue contempt action against them if they failed to appear before the panels, saying they are officers and will have to appear before all the committees.
The order came after the counsel for Delhi Legislative Assembly, the Speaker and two panels informed the court that the three officers were neither appearing before the committees, nor giving reply to the information sought from them.
Senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog, appearing for Legislative Assembly, Speaker and two panels, argued that the bureaucrats were taking "advantage" of the court's earlier order restraining the authorities from taking action against them.
The high court had on March 9 asked the committees not to take coercive steps against the IAS officers.
In today's order, the bench said "it is clarified that the petitioners (bureaucrats) shall participate in the proceedings of the panels without prejudice to their rights and contentions."
"It is the direction of this court that you will have to appear. If you fail to appear, forget about them (authorities), this court will issue contempt action against you," the judge said and listed the matter for further hearing on September 18.
When advocate Vivek Chib, appearing for the bureaucrats, tried to explain the matter and said the chief secretary should not be asked to appear before the Privileges Committee, the court said, "where is the question of you not appearing? Differences between the central government and the state government are different. As an officer, you will have to appear before the Privileges Committee."
The order came in the backdrop of the Supreme Court's July 4 verdict on the power tussle between the Centre and the Delhi Chief Minister in which it was held that the Lieutenant Governor has no independent power to take decisions and was bound by the elected government's advice.
The apex court had said that barring three issues of public order, police and land, the Delhi government had the power to legislate and govern on other issues.
The high court today also made it clear that the committees will not take any coercive action against the bureaucrats till the pendency of petitions and directed that the proceedings of the panel meetings should be videographed.
The chief secretary was earlier served a notice by the Privileges Committee for skipping a meeting on February 20, which was scheduled a day after he was allegedly assaulted by two AAP MLAs -- Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal.
The Privileges Committee had issued the notice after receiving a complaint against the chief secretary by the Question & Reference (Q&R) Committee.
The Q&R Committee had also served notice on two IAS officers -- J B Singh, Registrar of Cooperative Societies, and Shurbir Singh, chief executive officer of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB).
During the hearing, the high court sought to know the details of the Supreme Court's verdict.
To this, the Speaker's counsel said there was no specific reference to 'services' issue in the apex court order.
The chief secretary and the two officers were called for the meeting by the Q&R Committee to examine issues in which a reply from the Department of Cooperative Society was found to be uncomplete and unsatisfactory. The issues related to the Delhi Nagrik Sahkari Bank Ltd.
The Speaker, in an affidavit, had earlier told the high court that the chief secretary has no right under the law to challenge the enquiries conducted by House committees and the bureaucrat has levelled reckless, unfounded, mala fide and defamatory allegations on the members of the panels.
In his petition, the chief secretary has submitted that he was summoned to appear before the privilege committee for inquiry without being provided any copy of the complaint or opportunity to respond to the same.
The court had sought responses from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Lieutenant Governor, the AAP government, office of the Delhi Assembly Speaker, its privilege committee and the Question and Reference committee.
The chief secretary in his plea has sought quashing of the notice issued to him by the committee. He had said the chief secretary has a right to free and fair investigation and he has been asked to appear before the committee which has Khan as one of its member.
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