Uttarakhand HC upholds termination of 228 ad hoc Vidhan Sabha employees

Updated on Nov 24, 2022 09:30 PM IST

The panel submitted its report to the speaker on September 22. The decision was a setback to finance minister Aggarwal who defended the appointments made during his tenure as assembly speaker.

Upset over the decision, more than 100 employees who lost their jobs approached the HC challenging its ruling (Representative Photo)
Upset over the decision, more than 100 employees who lost their jobs approached the HC challenging its ruling (Representative Photo)

A division bench comprising justice Vipin Sanghi, and justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe of the Uttarakhand high court (HC) on Thursday set aside the orders of the single bench that put a stay on the termination of service of 228 ad hoc employees of Uttarakhand Vidhan Sabha.

On October 15, justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari put a stay on the termination of their appointments against which the Vidhan Sabha Secretariat approached the division bench of HC.

The employees, who were allegedly appointed through the “back door” during the then speakers Prem Chand Aggarwal and Govind Singh Kunjyal on an ad hoc basis, were terminated on September 23 on the basis of a report by an expert committee constituted by Vidhan Sabha speaker Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, who said their appointments were “against rules”.

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The three-member inquiry panel led by retired IAS officer DK Kotia was asked to look into the matter after the opposition Congress alleged finance minister Prem Chand Aggarwal, during his tenure as the assembly speaker during 2017-2022, appointed relatives and people linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the secretariat.

The panel submitted its report to the speaker on September 22. The decision was a setback to finance minister Aggarwal who defended the appointments made during his tenure as assembly speaker.

Of the recruitment of 228 officials who were removed, 150 were appointed in 2016 when Congress leader Govind Singh Kunjwal was the assembly speaker and Harish Rawat was chief minister of Uttarakhand. Six officials were recruited in 2020 and 72 in 2021.

Welcoming the HC’s order, Ritu Khanduri said, “Justice has prevailed. I am pleased with the honourable court’s order. I was fighting for the system and rules and regulations, not against any individual.”

“The appointments made before 2012 were permanent unlike ad hoc which have been cancelled. 182 are permanent appointments. However, I have already made it clear that even the legality of permanent appointments is under examination,” she said.

Upset over the decision, more than 100 employees who lost their jobs approached the HC challenging its ruling.

Avtar Singh Rawat, one of the counsels for the petitioners, said, “We will approach the Supreme Court (SC) against HC’s order.”

“If the Vidhan Sabha speaker wants to cancel appointments, she should cancel all since the formation of the state, including those who have now been regularized. It’s a selective approach and implies inequality,” he said.

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Accusing the speaker of resorting to a selective approach, Uttarakhand Congress spokesperson Garima Dasauni said, “The speaker cancelled the ad hoc appointments made through the back door but what about action against who opened the back door? If then speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal made illegal appointments, why not take any action against him? It’s clearly a selective approach. It’s fathomable that they want to save those from the ruling party. If RSS can act against its two office bearers for the same reason, why can’t the BJP?.”

Reacting to allegations, BJP media in-charge Manveer Singh Chauhan said, “Vidhan Sabha is a constitutional institution and the matter is in court. Hence, we can’t say much about it. But I want to ask Congress, did they act against their speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal who made illegal appointments?”

“The opposition party says anything for political reasons,” he said.

On September 23, the speaker proposed cancelling all ad hoc appointments made since 2016 on the suggestions of a three-member expert committee that found “irregularities” in them and against rules and regulations. The government subsequently approved the proposal.

As many as 150 ad hoc appointments were made in 2016 during the term of then speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, six ad hoc appointments were made in 2020, and 72 ad hoc appointments were made in 2021 during then speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal’s tenure.

Aggarwal is currently the finance minister in the BJP-led Dhami government.

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