Expressing “shock” over the Delhi Assembly Speaker approaching it for a writ petition on the repatriation of a bureaucrat, the Delhi High Court Friday indicated its disapproval of the tussle between the Speaker and the Centre over the issue.
“How will government function if such things happen,” observed the bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, while hearing a plea filed by Speaker Ram Niwas Goel against the repatriation of the current legislative assembly secretary Prasanna Kumar Suryadevara to All India Radio — his parent organisation.
Justice Sachdeva observed that it was an “extraordinary situation” that the Speaker, who holds a constitutional post, had to approach the court in a writ petition under Article 226 to retain an official. The court asked the Centre, the Director General of AIR and the assembly secretariat to “resolve the issue amicably”.
Goel has approached the court against the decision of former L-G Najeeb Jung to repatriate Suryadevara, an officer belonging to Newsreader-cum-Translator (Telugu) cadre, to AIR. “Administrative issues should not need court intervention,” said the court, which also asked the DG, AIR, “not to take any coercive steps” on the repatriation.
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Senior advocate P Chidambaram appeared before the bench on Goel’s behalf, and argued that the officer should not be repatriated since the Speaker has extended the tenure of his deputation by passing a resolution in the Assembly.
The Speaker also contended that since he holds a constitutional office, the L-G cannot repatriate the assembly secretary without his concurrence. Further, he said that several letters sent to AIR asking for “permanent absorption” of the officer to the Delhi Assembly cadre had “fallen on deaf ears”.
Goel, in his plea, has also challenged the memorandums issued by AIR to Suryadevara, directing him to join his parent organisation immediately, failing which he will be treated to be on “unauthorised absence”. He alleged that the decision to repatriate the official has been taken to “punish” Suryadevara for “criticising the central government” in an article published in The Indian Express in June 2016, which had been written with the permission of the Speaker, and for “following the orders” passed by the Speaker to retain him as secretary.
The bureaucrat was appointed to the post of Delhi Assembly Secretary in July 2015 for a year. Once the period ended, AIR directed him to return. But the Speaker argued that his presence was “necessary for the functioning of the Delhi Assembly”.
The counsel appearing for the AIR told the court that the Speaker “did not have the authority” to extend tenure since the “parent department has lien on the employee”, and the “Speaker cannot hold him back if the parent department wants his repatriation”. But the bench observed that the issue “should not be thrashed in court”, and asked both the department and the Assembly to “discuss the issue of revocation of the decision”.
The bench also pulled up the lawyer for arguing that the tenure of an official on deputation could not be extended, observing that there were a number of officials posted on deputation for long periods of time. The judge, in his observations, indicated that the court was inclined to agree with the Speaker’s argument but declined to pass any orders or observations in this regard for now.
The bench issued notice to the Centre, AIR, Delhi government and Suryadevara, asking them to file their responses to the plea by January 17.