Delhi high court asks chief secretary Anshu Prakash to appear before Assembly committee
The Delhi high court on Friday directed the state’s chief secretary Anshu Prakash and two other top bureaucrats to appear before Delhi assembly committees that had summoned them for skipping a meeting, and warned him that not doing so would be a contempt of court.
Prakash and the others had been issued a notice by the assembly for skipping a meeting on February 20, a day after he was allegedly assaulted by two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs after a late-night meeting at chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s house.
The three bureaucrats -- the other two are JB Singh, registrar of cooperative societies, and Shurbir Singh, chief executive officer of Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board -- had moved the court seeking to quash the notice issued against them by the committee. The chief secretary had submitted that he was “summoned to appear before the Privileges Committee for inquiry without being provided any copy of the complaint or opportunity to respond to the same”. Prakash said he had a right to free and fair investigation.
“It is clarified that the petitioners 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,” Justice Vibhu Bhakru said.
Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj tweeted after the court’s directive: “AAP thanks the Judiciary for upholding the supremacy of Legislature in its own sphere and honouring the Laxman Rekha.”
Appearing for the Delhi legislative assembly, the Speaker and the two assembly panels, the counsels told the court that the three bureaucrats have not been coming before the committees and have not been giving any replies to queries sent to them. The counsels alleged that the three bureaucrats were taking “undue advantage” of an earlier court order which had restrained the committees from taking any coercive action against them. Leading the counsels was Sudhir Nandrajog, who was accompanied by advocate Manish Vashisht.
In his order, the court made it clear that the officers will have to appear before the committees. However, they were assured that no coercive action would be taken against them till a final verdict on the petitions was given.
Justice Bhakru also said that the proceedings of the meetings for which the bureaucrats have been summoned should be recorded on video
A bureaucrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the court order was not a setback, as the HC also directed to videotape the assembly committee meetings -- a demand that they have been pressing for after the chief secretary’s alleged assault.
The matter comes weeks after the chief minister and some of his cabinet colleagues participated in an unprecedented nine-day sit-in at the office of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, asking him to direct IAS officers to end their “strike” after the alleged assault on Prakash.
Kejriwal, along with his deputy Manish Sisodia, labour minister Gopal Rai and public works department minister Satyendar Jain, had on June 11 gone to meet Baijal but did not leave the office, pressing the LG to intervene and get the bureaucrats to call off the boycott. The impasse ended after Kejriwal made fresh appeals to the officials.