HC sets aside appointment of Punjab chief principal secretary
Chandigarh: The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday set aside the appointment of Suresh Kumar as the chief principal secretary to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh saying the retired IAS officer was holding public office "without authority of law".
Justice Rajan Gupta of the high court while pronouncing the order said, "Having considered the entire conspectus of the matter, this court finds that respondent no. 5 (Suresh Kumar) is holding a 'public office' without authority of law and in clear violation of the constitutional scheme, particularly Article 166(3) and rules framed thereunder."
"Thus, the appointment of respondent is held to be void.
Same is hereby set-aside. Petition is accordingly allowed," he also said.
Petitioner Ramandeep Singh, a Mohali resident, had moved the high court last year, claiming that Kumar's appointment was against the constitutional scheme and accepted norms.
Kumar, considered close to Amarinder Singh, was appointed after the Congress came to power in the state last March. The post of chief principal secretary was specially created for the retired IAS officer, the petitioner said.
The court observed that according to records, "overriding powers" had been vested with the post of chief principal secretary to chief minister.
"In view of the stand of the State that appointment of respondent is contractual in nature, he would not be governed by any disciplinary or other rules. Having been entrusted with important sovereign functions and having ceased to be a public servant, it is inexplicable how such a appointee can be held accountable for the decisions taken by him," the judge said.
"Record shows that over-riding powers have been vested in the post of the chief principal secretary. Even consultation with the ministers and the administrative secretaries is not necessary in view of powers bestowed on him by virtue of the standing order.
"It is not difficult to envision a situation where the State is plunged into crisis by a decision taken by such appointee because he cannot be expected to have, despite his long career as a bureaucrat, same vision for the development of the State as the chief minister who enjoys the mandate of the general populace and is answerable to them for his decisions," the judge said.
"Accountability is sine qua non of appointment in public services which is altogether missing in the instant case," judge further said in the order.
The court also said that it is not clear why, in the absence of the chief minister, the next senior most minister or the minister in-charge would not assume command and authorised to take important decisions.
"There can be no justification for vesting this extraordinary power in the chief principal secretary apparently in violation of the procedure and rules of business envisaged by Article 166(3) of the Constitution," the judge observed.
Kumar, a 1983 batch officer, retired in 2016 as additional chief secretary. He had served at many positions in the state as well as at the Centre on deputation.