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
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: “..at 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.