In a setback to the Punjab government, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Wednesday set aside the appointment of Suresh Kumar as state chief principal secretary.
Kumar, who retired in 2016 as an additional chief secretary, was appointed as chief principal secretary to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in March for a period of five years. He was put on the same pay scale as the Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India.
While the government had defended its decision to appoint the retired official to the Chief Minister’s Office, the petitioner’s counsel had said it is against the constitutional scheme and norms.
A number of legal questions had cropped up during the hearings in the case including on the delegation of power of the chief minister when he is not at the headquarters, and whether Kumar can be accorded the powers of a cadre officer when his position in the government is neither cadre nor non-cadre. The counsel representing the petitioner, senior advocate Gurminder Singh, had argued that the appointment is against the constitutional norms as it was done without the approval of the Governor.
Gurminder had also told the court that terms and conditions of the appointment make it clear that in some matters of immediate nature, the powers of the chief minister get delegated to Kumar when the former is out on tour. He had also said the chief principal secretary to CM has the power to take decisions on his own in the chief minister’s absence.
Former Solicitor General of India and Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar, who was representing the government, had defended Kumar’s appointment and countered the question on delegation of power. He said the chief principal secretary is first required to speak with the chief minister over the phone when the latter is not present at the headquarters, and then decide on cases requiring immediate attention.