The Delhi High Court asked the government Monday whether permission had been obtained for the week-long sit-in protest by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues at the office of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. While refraining from issuing interim directions on three PILs, the court also asked for the meaning of “dharna or strike”.
“This can’t be called a strike,” observed a vacation bench of Justices A K Chawla and Navin Chawla, “You can’t go inside someone’s office or house and hold a strike there.” The court also said: “Who authorised the strike/dharna? You (Kejriwal and others) are sitting inside the LG’s office. If it’s a strike, it has to be outside the office.”
The HC also asked if permission had been obtained from the Lt Governor in this regard and also sought to know from the Delhi government counsel whether Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, Health Minister Satyendar Jain and Labour Minister Gopal Rai were on “strike or dharna”.
“What is the meaning of strike or dharna? Can anyone explain it,” the bench said while refraining from issuing any interim directions on three PILs that sought to stop the sit-in protest at the Lt Governor’s office. The court said it would take up the matter next on June 22.
Kejriwal and his colleagues have been on the sit-in protest at Raj Niwas since the evening of June 11. Sisodia and Jain, who also started a hunger strike have been hospitalised.
Responding to the query by the bench, senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog, who appeared for the Delhi government, said Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues took the decision to protest in their individual capacity and they were empowered to do so under the Constitution.
When the Delhi government lawyer said it was an individual decision by the ministers to hold a strike, Justice A K Chawla again asked, “Is it authorised?”, and added that such a demonstration could not be termed a strike.
The bench also pointed out that the CM and others were sitting inside the Lt Governor’s office and not outside or at the door.
The oral remarks were made while the court heard two petitions: by Delhi-based lawyer Hari Nath Ram through advocates Shashank Deo Sudhi and Shashi Bhushan against the sit-in by AAP leader Kejriwal on June 14 and another against the alleged Delhi government IAS officers strike by advocate Umesh Gupta on June 15.
The sit-in protest at Baijal’s office was also challenged Monday by Delhi Leader of the Opposition Vijender Gupta. BJP MP Parvesh Singh Sahib, rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra and BJP MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa are joint petitioners with Gupta.
Kejriwal said they would not leave Baijal’s office until their demands are met, which include directions to IAS officers to end their alleged strike, action against such officers and approval to an AAP proposal for doorstep delivery of ration to the poor.
During arguments, the Centre told the court that no IAS officers were on strike and urged the bench to direct Kejriwal and others to vacate the Lt Governor’s office.
The court asked petitioner advocate Umesh Gupta, who moved a plea against the alleged strike by the bureaucrats, to make an association representing IAS officers as a party in the matter.
Advocates Sudhi and Bhushan told The Indian Express that they will now approach the Supreme Court against Kejriwal’s sit-in protest.