DW Bureau | Chandigarh
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 Amarinder Singh.
Staying the operation of the order of the single bench, a division bench of Justices Mahesh Grover and Rajbir Sehrawat observed: “We are prima facie of the opinion that 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 of the incumbent assigned the status of the a Chief Principal Secretary.”
The Court further observed that since the learned Single Judge who dealt with the matter was not bestowed with the subject roster, the judgement in these circumstances could possibly be construed as coram non judice. Even otherwise the matter needs deeper deliberation, it said.
The Punjab government had last week filed an appeal, challenging the single-bench order that had set aside the appointment. The government had contended that it had “unequivocal powers” to make contractual appointments.
The division bench also issued notice of motion to the petitioner, Kumar and the other respondents for April 17. Former Union minister P Chidambaram appeared for the Punjab government.
On January 17, the single bench of the high court had set aside Kumar’s appointment, saying the retired IAS officer was holding a public office “without the authority of law”.
The Punjab government, in its appeal filed through the Chief Secretary and the department of General Administration, had said it had the power to assign duties to an appointee.
Referring to the single-bench order, the government, in its written submissions, had said Kumar was not passing any order on any file and that it was only the chief minister, who was passing the orders.
The appeal had also mentioned that Kumar neither took any decision, nor recorded it and only the decisions taken by the chief minister were recorded on the file.
Petitioner Ramandeep Singh, a Mohali resident, had moved the high court last year, claiming that Kumar’s appointment was unconstitutional and against the accepted norms.
Kumar, considered close to the chief minister, was appointed after the Congress came to power in the state in March last year.
The post of chief principal secretary was specially created for the retired IAS officer, the petitioner had claimed.
Kumar, a 1983-batch IAS officer, retired in 2016 as the additional chief secretary. He had occupied various positions in the state as well as at the Centre on deputation. He had also served as the principal secretary to the chief minister during Singh’s previous tenure of 2002-2007. With PTI inputs