The AAP government and the two panels of the Legislative Assembly were today restrained by the Delhi High Court from taking any coercive or penal steps in connection with the issue of de-silting of the city drains. The direction by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar came on the plea of Delhi Chief Secretary M M Kutty, claiming 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 court stayed a June 29 report of the Assembly’s Committee on Petitions which said there was misrepresentation of facts before it by Public Work Department (PWD) officials in connection with de-silting of drains.
The bench also put on hold a July 3 resolution of the Assembly accepting the panel’s report and referring it to the Committee on Privileges for initiating privilege proceedings.
The court also stayed a August 3 note sent by the PWD minister to the Chief Secretary in which it was allegedly observed that the report submitted by him with regard to work done by PWD officials for de-silting the drains was “evasive and unsatisfactory”.
In its four-page interim order, the bench directed that “there shall be a stay on the report of the Committee of Petitions of June 29, 2017 as tabled in the Legislative Assembly, impugned resolution dated July 3 passed by the Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi as well as the observations reflected in the note dated August 3 and the respondents (Delhi government, Assembly and LG office) shall stand prohibited from taking any coercive and penal steps pursuant thereto till the next date of hearing.”
The Assembly while accepting the Committee on Petitions report had asked the Chief Secretary to file a report fixing responsibility on those responsible for not de-silting the drains. The matter was mentioned today before the court by senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Kutty and was heard in-chamber by the bench.
Kutty, in his plea filed through advocate Vivek Chib, has sought quashing of the June 29 report, the July 3 Assembly resolution as well as the August 3 note of the PWD minister.
The petition also assailed the jurisdiction of the government and the Assembly to issue the note and directions to Kutty.
After hearing brief arguments by Luthra as well as 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 Lt Governor.
The stand of all authorities, arrayed in the petition, has been sought before the next date of hearing on November 8.
Earlier on July 31, the court had stayed the breach of privilege proceedings initiated against the PWD secretary for allegedly misleading the Committee on Petitions on the issue of de-silting of the city drains.
It had also put on hold a panel’s notice to the bureaucrat asking him to remain present for the proceedings before the Committee on Privileges.
While issuing interim orders, the bench had said that on a prima facie reading of the Conduct of Business Rules of the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory, a panel of the House would be precluded from taking action in any matter which was being looked into by a court of law.
The high court had noted that the entire issue of de-silting of drains was pending consideration before it.