Don’t discontinue services of House fellows, says Delhi HC

Sep 21, 2023 11:52 PM IST

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) claims that a Delhi high court judgment proves that the lieutenant governor misused his powers by terminating the services of 17 fellows from the Delhi Assembly Research Centre. The court has directed that the services of the petitioners be continued until December 6.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday said a Delhi high court judgment directing that the services of 17 fellows terminated from the Delhi Assembly Research Centre be continued till December 6 proved that the Capital’s “lieutenant governor was misusing his powers” and “that he had no power to remove the fellows.”

26 May 2015, New Delhi: delhi high court . photo:pradeep gaur/mint
26 May 2015, New Delhi: delhi high court . photo:pradeep gaur/mint

The LG’s office did not respond to requests seeking comment on the matter, while the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pointed out that the court had not issued any judgments in the case.

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During a hearing on Thursday, the single-judge Delhi high court bench of justice Subramonium Prasad said, “Till the next date of hearing, let services of the petitioners be not discontinued and petitioners be given stipend. Replies to be filed within two weeks. List on December 6.”

The court sought responses from the state assembly and Delhi’s services and finance departments.

The court was hearing a petition by the 17 fellows working with the Delhi government who were among several people removed after LG VK Saxena directed that the contracts of those working as consultants, fellows, and advisers in state departments be ended.

The LG office had alleged that the AAP-led Delhi government employed 437 people, most of whom were found to be party workers, to run a “parallel civil service” while flouting “constitutional norms of reservation”, “manipulating the selection process” and “rigging the selection criterion”.

In a statement, the AAP said the order underlined that the LG was “conspiring” to remove the fellows.

“The LG had no authority to remove employees. The LG has been consistently working against the law and the constitution. The LG’s task is to find new ways every day to cripple the Delhi government, causing inconvenience to the people. It was under his conspiracy that young professionals were removed,” the AAP said.

However, the BJP denied the court’s directions were a vindication for the AAP.

“The problem with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is that he tries to sell every court order suiting him as justice, but the moment it goes against him, he even raises questions on the independence of the judiciary,” said Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor

“The court has just given a temporary order which will be subject to final judgment after the departments of services and finance submit their view points,” he said.

The court on Thursday noted the assembly speaker had said the reasons for termination did not apply to the services of the petitioners and sought an explanation regarding the change in the stand. “Issue notice to respondents to explain why this sudden change in attitude,” the court said.

On July 17, the Delhi government had hit back at the LG and said the fellowships were created after obtaining the requisite administrative approvals from the state cabinet as well as the departments of law and finance, and by the lieutenant governors at the time.

In a similar vein, the counsel for the petitioners contended in court on Thursday that the fellows’ services had been terminated prematurely in an “unceremonious, arbitrary, and illegal manner” in the aftermath of a letter issued by the services department on July 5.

“The Petitioners were engaged as “Fellows”... for the Delhi Assembly Research Centre which was constituted pursuant to a recommendation of the General Purposes Committee of the Assembly to create a dedicated research centre...,” the counsel for petitioners said.

The July 5 letter directed that the engagement of the petitioners, for which prior approval of the LG had not been sought, be discontinued and disbursement of salary to them stopped.

The letter was kept in abeyance and the assembly speaker “informed the LG that he had directed officers of the Secretariat not to take any action in the matter without his approval” but they were not paid their stipends, they added.

“However, around the first week of August, 2023 they were prevented from marking their attendance... their engagement was discontinued,” the plea said.

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