Delhi high court on Monday asked Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) chief MK Meena to act in accordance with the law and remain ACB head, while refusing to issue directions to restrain him from entering office as sought by the Delhi government.
Justice VP Vaish also declined Delhi government's pleas to stop Meena from removing the FIR book from ACB headquarters, recording new FIRs and seeking immediate removal of paramilitary personnel posted there.
As senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party government, sought directions to restrain Meena from allegedly pressurising ACB officials, the court directed Meena to act in "accordance with law", while posing whether the ACB would function "smoothly" if he was restrained from entering the ACB office.
It also issued notice to the Centre directing it to file its response within two weeks and listed the application for further hearing on August 11 along with the ongoing litigation challenging Centre's notification giving LG Najeeb Jung absolute powers to appoint bureaucrats in the capital.
The court was hearing Delhi government's plea alleging that Meena has been "misusing his powers to browbeat and threaten officials of ACB and the vigilance department", after AAP government-nominated ACB chief SS Yadav accused Meena of threatening and pressuring him.
"On numerous occasions he (Meena) has put pressure on ACB officers to transfer all cases of corruption involving police personnel from ACB to Delhi Police," Jaising alleged. She sought an interim order saying "it was an emergent situation not an urgent" situation to ensure that ACB is allowed to function smoothly.
Jaising also alleged that the "Centre has been repeatedly attempting to interfere with and hamper the smooth functioning of the ACB. The notification which have been impugned in the writ petition were the first attempt in this direction."
"I want these intimidating tactics be stopped," she said adding that once the intimidation was removed the ACB will show how many anti-graft complaints are received.
This submission was made in response to the court's query whether there are any cases where an anti-graft complaint was received and was put up before Meena but no approval was granted for lodging an FIR.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain contended that the ACB was a police station and since police fell within the Centre's purview, the Central Government was empowered to post someone to head it and Meena was a Joint Commissioner rank officer and "not some inspector".
Jain said the Delhi government's home department's order recalling appointment of Meena had been cancelled by the LG, who has said that the same was void ab initio as it was passed without taking approval from the competent authority.
The court also declined the AAP government's plea seeking direction to implead Meena as party in the main petition, which has challenged a May 21 notification and the July 23, 2014 notification limiting the ACB's jurisdiction to Delhi government officials only and not the city police.
"Pass an order restraining Meena, 1989-batch Indian Police Service officer, joint commissioner/New Delhi Range from entering the office of ACB of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi and from interfering in any manner with functioning of the ACB," the application had said.
The face-off between the LG and Kejriwal's government has resulted in the ACB now having two chiefs.
Jaising, assisted by senior counsel Dayan Krishan and Delhi government's standing counsel Raman Duggal, said they have been constrained to approach the court "owing to the illegal attempts being made by persons having vested interests to interfere with the functioning of the ACB".
She also argued that ACB was being "prevented" from investigating acts of corruption and misuse or abuse of public office, "with the objective of shielding persons whose conduct was under investigation and to thereby thwart the course of administration of justice and enforcement of the rule of law in National Capital Territory(NCT) of Delhi."
"The objective appears to be, to prejudice the attempts of the elected government to uproot corruption from the National Capital, hamper and scuttle an ongoing investigation and compromise crucial and sensitive evidence," Jaising argued.
The Delhi government contended that enforcement of criminal law and criminal procedure fell squarely within the domain of the NCT of Delhi, a fact duly recognised by a single judge bench of high court which in a judgement of May 25 held the Centre's notification as "suspect".
"The attempt to take over the functioning of ACB, by the Centre, acting through MK Meena, is contrary to the law laid down by this court in Delhi Police constable Anil Kumar case, wherein it has been held that the executive power of the Delhi government extends to implementation of criminal law and criminal procedure, as also the law laid down by the Supreme Court in a judgement," Jaising contended.
She further said that the LG's order directing Meena to "look after" the work of ACB was "patently illegal".
A confidential note was addressed by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to Union home minister Rajnath Singh on June 22 "narrating the manner in which functioning of the ACB is being hampered and requesting him to intervene and direct LG and Delhi Police to cease the interference with the ACB," the city government's counsel said.
The order appointing Meena "was issued, bypassing the chief minister. It is pertinent to point out that ACB was set up more than 45 years ago and has been directly under the control of the Delhi government," she argued.
It stated that "ACB is headed by additional commissioner of police and there is no sanctioned post of joint commissioner of Police in the ACB".
"SS Yadav is presently posted as additional commissioner and head of the ACB. MK Meena has been directed to look after and is sought to take over the work of a non-existent post and the order is accordingly patently void.
"This itself shows, how an order has been hurriedly issued (by the Centre) without application of mind, apart from the fact that the said order was issued without jurisdiction and in malafide exercise of power," Jaising said.
The application said that the Delhi government decided to move the court after Meena on June 24 allegedly went to Yadav's office and asked for FIRs filed with ACB pertaining to Delhi Police officials.
It also said that director of vigilance was the ex-officio head of ACB as per an order dated August 19, 1998 issued by Delhi government's home department.