No coercive action against CS Anshu Prakash : Delhi assembly

A committee of the Delhi Assembly today assured the Delhi High Court that it would not take any coercive action against the Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash for skipping meetings called by the panel.

The assurance from the privilege committee came after the High Court made it clear that the matter before it should not be taken in view of the Chief Secretary seeking legal remedy before it.

After taking instructions from the competent authority, the counsel appearing for the Delhi Assembly Speaker, the Question and Reference committee and the privilege committee, said that the meeting, scheduled today regarding the privilege notice issued to Prakash, has been deferred till further orders.

The High Court was hearing the matter when the privilege committee had commenced its meeting at the Old Secretariat building here.

However, the privilege committee said the proceedings against two IAS officers — J B Singh, Registrar of Cooperative Societies, and Shurbir Singh, chief executive officer DUSIB, would continue as they have not moved the High Court.

Prakash has challenged the privilege committee notice directing him to appear before it for skipping a meeting on February 20, which was scheduled a day after he was allegedly assaulted by two AAP MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal, both of whom are now in Tihar Jail.

The CS also did not attend the subsequent meetings on February 21 and 23, following which the notice was issued on March 1.

In his plea, the chief secretary has submitted that he 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 .

A bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued notices and sought responses from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Lieutenant Governor, the AAP government, office of the Delhi Assembly Speaker, its privilege committee and the Question and Reference committee in two weeks.

“Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for Speaker and the committees, states that the matter concerning Prakash will be deferred by the privilege committee till further orders. His statement is taken on record. Renotify the matter on April 11,” the bench said.

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 the plea should be dealt by a single judge bench.

At the outset, the single judge 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. Speaker’s power of contempt are equal to court’s power. Bad facts may lead to laying of bad law.

“So, we have to be very cautious and careful 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 and asked Hegde to seek instructions.

Ten minutes later, Hegde returned after taking instructions and assured the bench that he was ready to undertake that there would be no coercive action against the chief secretary if he attends the meeting.

The lawyer said the matter requires a “patient hearing” and the petitioner is before this court due to apprehension of action but “heavens are not going to fall” if he appears before the committee, as only a notice has been issued to him.

“There can’t be a scenario where executive is not responsible to the legislature. The bureaucracy cannot paralyse the work of legislature. Normally the courts don’t interfere in the working of the legislature. As an institution, we have to see this institutionally. So this needs to be heard,” he said.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the CS, however said that the notice 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 – Khan and Jarwal.

The CS in his plea filed through advocate Vivek Chib has sought quashing of the notice issued to him by the committee.

He said the CS has a right to free and fair investigation and he has been asked to appear before the committee which has Khan as one of its member.

“How can I (CS) be asked to appear before a committee whose one of the member assaulted me and an FIR has already been registered against him. 11 members including Khan and Jarwal assaulted me and others are yet to be identified. I don’t know if they will also be there in the meeting,” Luthra said.

Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, appearing for the LG, said this privileges committee does not have the power to summon a bureaucrat and sought adjournment of the panel’s meeting.

Earlier in the day, the division bench of the high court had said that efforts should have been made by both the AAP government and Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash to “assuage tempers” and the breach of privilege notices issued by the Delhi Assembly panel had added 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.

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