The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of the Centre and the AAP government on a plea by the Assembly Speaker seeking to vacate a stay on breach of privilege proceedings against the PWD secretary for allegedly misleading a house panel on the issue of de-silting of drains. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar also issued notice to the office of Lieutenant Governor, PWD secretary Ashwani Kumar and the legislative assembly’s Committee of Privileges (CoP) which had initiated proceedings against the bureaucrat.
Senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for Speaker Ram Niwas Goyal, argued that the Speaker’s powers cannot be challenged in a court of law and the high court’s order staying the breach of privilege proceedings initiated by CoP should be vacated.
He said the question is that legislature’s proceedings cannot be interfered by the high court and submitted that the matter involved two branches of the state which must be resolved.
He sought an early hearing in the matter which was listed for November 8.
The bench listed the Speaker’s plea as well as the main petition for further hearing on October 24.
Advocate Sanjay Jain, appearing for the LG, opposed the plea saying no case for expeditious hearing was made out and there were other pending matters also before the court.
Advocate Vivek Chib, who appeared for Kumar, said the Speaker has not yet filed a reply on his main petition.
On July 31, the bench had also put on hold the panel’s notice to the bureaucrat asking him to remain present for the proceedings before the CoP.
The bench had issued interim orders and said that on 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.
In the instant case, the entire issue of de-silting of drains was pending consideration before the high court, it had noted.
The court had also issued notice to the Centre, the Delhi government and the office of Lt Governor on Kumar’s plea.
Kumar, the Principal Secretary of Public Works Department (PWD) and the Vigilance Commission, has challenged the proceedings of breach of privilege initiated against him by the CoP on the ground that it was “without jurisdiction, malafide and wholly erroneous”.
The CoP examines notices of privileges and contempt of the House as referred to it by the Speaker.
In this case, the breach of privilege proceedings were initiated against Kumar for allegedly misleading the committee on petitions which was looking into a complaint claiming failure of the PWD and the municipal corporations in de-silting the drains in east Delhi’s Pandav Nagar.
His counsel had argued that as the issue of de-silting was being monitored by the high court, the Committee on Petitions could not have gone into it.
Kumar, in his plea, has also challenged the Committee on Petitions’ June 29 report that there was misrepresentation of facts before it.
The Assembly on July 3 had passed a resolution accepting its report and referring the issue of misleading of the panel to the CoP.
Thereafter, on July 28, the CoP had issued a notice of meeting to the petitioner to appear before it on July 31.
Kumar has challenged all the orders starting from referring of the complaint to the Committee on Petitions till the notice of July 28 seeking his presence before the CoP, saying all of them were “without jurisdiction and motivated by malafide considerations”.