In a partial relief for Mohali Mayor Kulwant Singh, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday barred the Punjab government from giving effect to any order on the show cause notice issued to him till January 22. Kulwant was directed to submit his reply to the notice to the government on Friday itself. The government order has been asked to be presented in a sealed cover in the High Court.
Kulwant had been issued a show cause notice for “purchasing a tree pruning machine at inflated prices and causing a loss to the state exchequer”. The government had given him seven days to respond and Friday was the last day.
During the hearing, the government and the Municipal Corporation opposed any interim order against the proceedings initiated against Kulwant and challenged his plea saying the enquiry has revealed that the bid for the machine was a “personal bid invited by him” and two officials have already been suspended in the matter.
Justice Daya Chaudhary initially questioned Kulwant’s counsel for not filing the reply first and then deciding on moving the High Court against any adverse order. Senior Advocate Deepinder Singh Patwalia said the order is “already on the file” and the notice was a mere formality. “This is an apprehension,” observed Justice Chaudhary. Patwalia, in response, argued that they “know it for a fact” that the order for Kulwant’s removal was already there and in case they are proven wrong, their plea should be dismissed with costs.
“It is just that they want to throw him out by hook or by crook,” said Patwalia, adding that even the investigation has been handed over to a person, who is not even a government officer. Kulwant’s counsel argued that the show cause notice issued to the mayor has been passed on a vigilance report, which has “never seen the light of day and nor has been passed to me”. “It is premeditated. The minister has already made a public statement that he will be thrown out,” said Patwalia, adding, “the MC is a self-governed institution where the government’s role is minimal.”
Defending the purchase of the machine, his counsel said a proper procedure was followed while buying the machine and two bids were received when quotations were invited. The proposal on the purchase was also approved by 42 of the 43 councillors.
“The resolution was passed with majority at the General House Meeting, which was approved by the Department of Local Government, Punjab. After following due procedure, the bid was confirmed. The petitioner was one of the members of the House/Committee. Certain terms and conditions were settled in the agreement with the approval of the members as well as the state government,” said Patwalia.