Suresh Ku­mar set to be back as HC stays quash­ing of ap­pointment

EX­IAS of­fi­cer, whose ap­pointment as chief prin­ci­pal secy to CM was quashed by a sin­gle­judge bench on Jan­uary 17, is likely to re­join the of­fice next week

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - Front page - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ter­schd@hin­dus­tan­ ■ ■

CHANDI­GARH: A divi­sion bench of the Pun­jab and Haryana high court on Wed­nes­day stayed the op­er­a­tion of a sin­gle-bench or­der that had set aside the ap­pointment of re­tired IAS of­fi­cer Suresh Ku­mar as the chief prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary to Pun­jab chief min­is­ter Cap­tain Amarinder Singh.

Ku­mar is likely to re­join the chief min­is­ter’s of­fice next week, said of­fi­cials who don’t want to be named. Ku­mar had an­nounced that he will never join back af­ter the sin­gle-judge quashed his ap­pointment on Jan­uary 17, rul­ing that he was hold­ing the pub­lic of­fice with­out au­thor­ity and over­rid­ing pow­ers were given to him with­out any ac­count­abil­ity. How­ever, Ku­mar could not be con­tacted de­spite re­peated at­tempts.

A 1983-batch IAS of­fi­cer, Ku­mar was ap­pointed im­me­di­ately af­ter the Congress govern­ment took over reins in Pun­jab on March 16 last year. The post cre­ated for the first time in Pun­jab was stated to be equiv­a­lent to a cabi­net sec­re­tary of the Govern­ment of In­dia. Ku­mar was be­ing paid ₹2.5 lakh per month mi­nus pen­sion.

For­mer Union fi­nance min­is­ter and se­nior Congress leader P Chi­dambaram and state’s ad­vo­cate gen­eral Atul Nanda ap­peared for Pun­jab. Ear­lier, for­mer solic­i­tor gen­eral of In­dia Ran­jit Ku­mar had de­fended the govern­ment de­ci­sion be­fore the sin­gle judge.

The court on Wed­nes­day dealt with tech­ni­cal is­sues and has not gone into mer­its of the ap­pointment. The pri­mary ar­gu­ment raised was that pe­ti­tioner Ra­man­deep Singh’s plea was in vi­o­la­tion of high court rules. The divi­sion bench, presided over by jus­tice Ma­hesh Grover and jus­tice Ra­jbir Sehrawat, stayed the sin­gle-judge or­der and is­sued no­tice for April 16.

It recorded: “ best, even if the lo­cus of the pe­ti­tioner to file a writ of quo war­ranto is ac­cepted, the same would nec­es­sar­ily es­pouse a pub­lic in­ter­est as the pe­ti­tioner’s in­ter­est does not con­flict with that of state or the in­cum­bent as­signed the sta­tus of a chief prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary. Since the sin­gle judge, who dealt with the mat­ter, was not be­stowed with the sub­ject ros­ter, the judg­ment un­der these cir­cum­stances could pos­si­bly be con­strued as coram non ju­dice (with­out ju­ris­dic­tion). Even oth­er­wise, the mat­ter needs deeper de­lib­er­a­tion.”

Quo war­ranto, as per high court rules, is filed to chal­lenge an ap­pointment to pub­lic of­fice where it is con­tin­u­ous and statu­tory in na­ture.

Ap­pear­ing for the pe­ti­tioner, se­nior ad­vo­cate Gur­min­der Singh pointed out that the is­sue was not raised be­fore the sin­gle judge. “They al­lowed the sin­gle judge to de­cide the mat­ter and are rais­ing this is­sue here,” he said. Chi­dambaram and Nanda ob­jected to it and ar­gued that it was de­lib­er­ated upon by the sin­gle judge. Fol­low­ing this, the divi­sion bench orally said it had “cor­rec­tional pow­ers” and was ex­er­cis­ing the same.

“It has se­ri­ous pit­falls, if we start ac­cept­ing (what hap­pened in this case). He (pe­ti­tioner) is not even an af­fected party,” the bench orally said. As the court or­dered stay, the pe­ti­tioner’s lawyer pointed out that Ku­mar was not even ap­pel­lant. “Why should he come? The govern­ment wants him to join,” the bench said, ob­serv­ing that it was a wel­come change that there was some­one who is not run­ning for a post af­ter re­tire­ment.

On merit of ap­pointment, the appeal says Ku­mar did not pos­sess the power to pass or­ders on any file and he nei­ther took any de­ci­sion nor recorded it.

Suresh Ku­mar

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