The “unholy fight” between the Delhi government and the Centre could demoralise the bureaucracy, observed the Delhi High Court on Monday, while staying two notices issued to Delhi Chief Secretary M M Kutty by the “Question and Reference Committee” of the Delhi Assembly.’ It also issued notices to the Centre, Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
The Assembly committee had issued Kutty a showcause notice for not following its directions to incorporate adverse remarks of a bureaucrat in the Annual Confidential Report (ACR). It also issued a “meeting” notice. Subsequently, Kutty moved the High Court seeking directions to the committee to stay the notices, besides restraining it from initiating any breach of privilege/contempt proceedings.
A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said it was “unreasonable” on part of the committee to initiate contempt proceedings against Kutty without considering his request for more time to respond to the notice. “…You (the committee) don’t even give him (Kutty) time to reply, and ask him to respond in an hour…,” the bench said.
As per Kutty’s plea, the committee had asked him to incorporate adverse remarks of then Registrar of Cooperative Department, Shurbir Singh, in the ACR. The plea said following the L-G’s order dated September 15, the Delhi government’s services department concluded that the appropriate authority to enter displeasure/remarks in the ACR of an IAS officer is the L-G. Without forwarding the file to him, no remarks can be made, the department said.
The plea said Kutty had forwarded the file to the competent authority. The committee had then asked Kutty to appear before it on October 16, to explain why his actions in the matter must not be not considered as contempt of proceedings of the committee and the House.
On receiving a notice that a meeting would be held on October 16, Kutty — on October 12 — requested that the meeting be rescheduled to another day as he had official assignments. But the committee rescheduled it by a hour — from 3 pm to 4 pm.
“Prima facie, it appears that the rescheduling of the meeting by merely one hour — in response to the request contained in the applicant’s letter — is unreasonable,” the bench said, adding, “… How is it contempt if he has to answer to the L-G?”