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Delhi-Centre 'Unholy Fight' Could Demoralise Bureaucracy: High Court

The show cause notice was issued to Kutty by the 'Question and Reference Committee' of the Assembly for not following its direction to incorporate adverse remarks in the ACR of a bureaucrat.


Updated:October 16, 2017, 7:43 PM IST
Delhi-Centre 'Unholy Fight' Could Demoralise Bureaucracy: High Court
File photo of Delhi High Court (Picture courtesy: Getty Images)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday expressed displeasure over the action taken by a Delhi Assembly committee against a senior IAS officer, saying the "unholy fight" between the Centre and the Delhi government could demoralise the bureaucracy.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar dubbed as "unreasonable" the act of the committee initiating contempt proceedings against Delhi Chief Secretary M M Kutty without considering his request for more time to respond to a show cause notice.

The show cause notice was issued to Kutty by the 'Question and Reference Committee' of the Assembly for not following its direction to incorporate adverse remarks in the ACR of a bureaucrat.

Kutty, in his defence, has contended that on September 15, the LG had issued an order that all service-related matters pertaining to IAS officers be put up before him, and therefore, he had forwarded the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of the concerned bureaucrat to the LG.

The court also stayed the effect and operation of the October 6 show cause notice and October 13 meeting notice issued to Kutty.

"He (Kutty) is seeking time to reply and you (committee) say why contempt proceedings be not initiated against him. You don't even give him time to reply and ask him to respond in one hour. This act will demoralise the bureaucracy. It is an unholy fight between you and the (Central) government," the

bench said, and added that "heaven will not fall" if Kutty is given time to reply.

"How is it a contempt if he has to answer to the Lieutenant Governor," it asked.

The court's order came on an application by Kutty seeking to stay the operation of the two notices and restrain the respondents from initiating any contempt or breach of privilege proceedings against him during the pendency of his petition.

After hearing arguments by senior advocate Siddharth Luthra as well as Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, Delhi government standing counsel Ramesh Singh, central government standing counsels Vinod Diwakar and Anurag Ahluwalia, the court issued notices to the Centre, AAP government and the office of LG.

The plea, filed through advocate Vivek Chib, said Kutty was asked to appear before the committee on October 16 to explain why his action, in the matter of incorporation of adverse remarks in the ACR of then Registrar of Cooperative Department Shurbir Singh, be not considered as contempt of proceedings of the committee and the House.

The plea said that consequent to the LG's September 15 order, Delhi government's service department also concluded that the appropriate authority in the matter of entering displeasure/remarks in the ACR of an IAS officer is the LG and without forwarding the file to him, no remarks can be made.

"The applicant submits that, in the circumstances, he forwarded the file to the competent authority," it said.

On October 12, he requested for rescheduling of the meeting to another day in view of his intervening official assignments, it said, adding that the committee responded that it was not possible to postpone the meeting and rescheduled it from 3 PM to 4 PM on October 16.

To this, the court said, "Given the tenor of the communications from the 'Question and Reference Committee' to the applicant, we have no doubt that the applicant would be seriously prejudiced by non-grant of ad-interim directions, as prayed, by the applicant. Prima facie, it appears that the rescheduling of the meeting by merely one hour in response to the request contained in the applicant's letter of October 12, is unreasonable."

The high court had earlier restrained the AAP government and the two panels of the Legislative Assembly from taking any coercive or penal steps in connection with the issue of de-silting of the city drains.

The direction had come on Kutty's plea alleging that he was being threatened with contempt of the House for not giving a report on de-silting that "suited the requirements" of the Delhi government.

The petition also assailed the jurisdiction of the government and the Assembly to issue the note and directions to Kutty.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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