The Delhi High Court today sought response of the Centre, AAP government, Lieutenant Governor (LG) and others on a plea filed by Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash challenging the notice by the Assembly's privilege committee directing him to appear before it for skipping a meeting called by the panel.
The Delhi High Court today sought response of the Centre, AAP government, Lieutenant Governor (LG) and others on a plea filed by Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash challenging the notice by the Assembly’s privilege committee directing him to appear before it for skipping a meeting called by the panel. A single-judge bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued notices to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Privilege Committee, the Question and Reference Committee, apart from the city government and the LG, while seeking their reply in two weeks. It posted the matter to April 11 after Delhi Assembly’s privilege committee agreed to defer the meeting till further orders.
The matter came up before Justice Shakdher after a division bench comprising justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, which heard the matter briefly, said that the plea should be dealt by a single judge bench. At the outset, the high court expressed reservation on hearing the plea saying it will have to see whether it has the jurisdiction to deal with the matter or not. “We need to address the issue of jurisdiction. We have to be very cautious while dealing with the issue. Today, it is the case of Delhi Assembly.
Tomorrow it could be Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. We need to hear this matter in detail,” the bench observed. During the proceedings, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the privilege committee, assured the bench that he has sought instructions, and he was ready to undertake that there would be no coercive action against the chief secretary if he attends the meeting.
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the CS, however, said that the notice which was issued to him was a “clear case of malice” and this action has been taken in pursuance to the lodging of FIR against AAP MLAs – Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal- who are presently in judicial custody for allegedly assaulting the bureaucrat.
Earlier in the day, the division bench of the high court had said that efforts should have been made by both the “sides”, the AAP government and Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, to “assuage tempers” and breach of privilege notices such as those issued by the Delhi Assembly panel “add fuel to the fire”. “He is your chief secretary. If you do not respect him then how will things work. Was there no other way of calling him?” it had asked.
The counsel for the AAP government had responded by asking how the government would get information regarding the administration if the chief secretary refused to cooperate. The court was hearing the chief secretary’s plea challenging a breach of privilege notice issued to him by Delhi Assembly privilege committee for allegedly skipping a meeting called by the panel.
The chief secretary’s counsel Vivek Chib had submitted that the senior bureaucrat was “summoned to appear before the privilege committee for inquiry without being provided any copy of the complaint or opportunity to respond to the same”. The panel had on February 21 recommended privilege proceedings against the CS for contempt of the House after he skipped the meeting called by the committee.
A committee of the Delhi Assembly yesterday accused Prakash of “lying” before the high court with regard to the breach of privilege notice. Members of the Question and Reference Committee said that they would also initiate “forgery proceedings” against Prakash for misinforming the court.
An AAP MLA had yesterday said, “We have learnt that the CS has moved the high court challenging the breach of privilege notice served to him by accusing us of arm-twisting him in a matter related to alleged attack on him, but he is hiding the fact that the meeting was related to rising NPAs.”
“The committee members challenge the CS to stick to the contents of his affidavit and not alter these contents. The chief secretary is clearly trying to shield those involved in the multi-crore scam, which appears to be on the lines of the Punjab National Bank scam,” the committee had said in a statement.