In a setback to the Punjab government, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Wednesday set aside the appointment of Suresh Kumar as state chief principal secretary.
Kumar, who retired in 2016 as an additional chief secretary, was appointed as chief principal secretary to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in March for a period of five years. He was put on the same pay scale as the Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India.
Justice Rajan Gupta ruled that Kumar, a retired Indian Administrative Service officer, was holding the post "in violation of Article 166 (3) of the Constitution" and thus the appointment was "null and void".
Suresh Kumar is considered close to Amarinder Singh and is seen as the most powerful man in the state after him.
A Mohali resident, Ramandeep Singh, had moved the high court against the appointment with a petition claiming that the appointment was against constitutional scheme and accepted norms.
His counsel had argued that the tenure of Kumar, had been made co-terminus with that of the government. He has been delegated the powers to oversee functioning of principal secretary to the chief minister which is a cadre post. "Thus, a public office, has been usurped by a retired IAS officer. This apart, there is no provision in the rules for bestowing rank of a cabinet secretary on a retired officer,” advocate H S Brar had told court.
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.
Kumar had also served as principal secretary to the chief minister during Amarinder Singhs previous tenure of 2002- 2007.
The High Court order is seen as a major blow to the Chief Minister, who is already grappling with controversies surrounding Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, who has since submitted his resignation.