Haryana’s senior IAS Officer Ashok Khemka on Friday had to withdraw a petition from the Punjab and Haryana High Court in which he had challenged a reply sent to him by the Supreme Court’s Assistant Registrar with regard to his representation in a case. Khemka argued that his natural right to represent himself before the court has been taken away as the SC administration has refused to accept his reply “propria persona” (filed personally) or his application for arguing in person.
Justice Harsimran Singh Sethi in the order said, “After arguing for some time, learned counsel for the petitioner prays that he be allowed to withdraw this petition with liberty to avail the appropriate remedy before the appropriate forum for the redressal of the grievance of the petitioner, if any.”
Haryana government’s SLP against a decision passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court with regard to Khemka’s performance appraisal report has been pending before the Supreme Court since 2019. The HC in the order had expunged Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s remarks in Khemka’s PAR and restored his grading as earlier given by the reviewing authority. Khemka is a Principal Secretary-rank officer in the state and is also a law graduate.
Khemka through a registered post in August 2019 had sent to the Supreme Court the reply and an application to argue in person in the case. However, Khemka’s petition said, the same was declined citing provisions of the Supreme Court Rules, 2016. Later, as per the petition, his attempt to file a reply at the filing counter in Supreme Court was also declined on the grounds that he had to first obtain permission to argue in person in the case, forcing him to engage an advocate-on-record. The application for arguing in person in the case was also denied in the absence of “mandatory service” to the opposing counsel, as per the petition.
“Subsequently, the petitioner addressed a letter dated 03.09.2019 on the administrative side, which was summarily rejected vide the impugned reply dated 18.03.2020,” read the petition, while referring to the communication received from the Assistant Registrar informing him that he may contact his advocate-on-record with regard to his prayer and take necessary steps as per provision of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013.
Khemka in the petition filed before the HC through advocate Shreenath A Khemka argued that the reply received is “mechanical, evasive, unreasoned and perfunctory determination on the administrative side” and submitted that he in 2018 was able to file a reply to a case through registered post. With regard to his application for arguing in person in the case, the petition said he had sought to file the application for it but rather than accepting the same, it was refused on the grounds that the pre-requirement of mandatory service to the opposing counsel has not been met.
“However, it must be noted that under Order IV, Rule 1 Proviso, there is no requirement to serve a copy upon anybody but the Registrar. Moreover, the opposite party has no locus to interfere in a hearing for determining the applicant’s reason for litigating propria persona or his ability to render necessary assistance to the court. Hence, the Registry acted in subterfuge,” the petition reads, adding that in terms of qualifications he is not differently placed from any other advocate provisionally enrolled with a State Bar Council.
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