RELIEF FOR AMARINDER | CHIDAMBARAM IN COURT
HC stays single bench’s judgment that quashed Suresh Kumar’s appointment, says “matter needs deeper deliberation”
- PT Bureau
HC stays single bench’s judgment that quashed Suresh Kumar’s appointment, says “matter needs deeper deliberation”



CHANDIGARH, February 14: In a legal twist that is likely to be seen as a boost for Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as well as a vindication for his hand-picked senior bureaucrat Suresh Kumar, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday stayed an order of the Single Bench that had quashed Kumar's appointment as Chief Principal Secretary to CM.

With former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram appearing on behalf of the state, the high-profile case has now become a matter of prestige for CM Amarinder Singh who has more than once let it be known publicly that he will ensure Suresh Kumar's return to the key post.

The Bench of Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Rajbir Sehrawat, which stayed the earlier judgement, observed that the single bench could not have exercised the jurisdiction in a writ of quo warranto. It issued notice of motion to the petitioner before the Single Bench, Suresh Kumar and other respondents for April 17. 

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With former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram appearing on behalf of the state, the high-profile case has now become a matter of prestige for CM Amarinder Singh who has more than once let it be known publicly that he will ensure Suresh Kumar's return to the key post.

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Wednesday’s judgement immediately triggered a new round of speculation about whether Suresh Kumar, who was pulled out of retirement to take up the assignment as Chief Principal Secretary, would rejoin. Kumar had earlier lost no time in packing his bags and heading home when a challenge was mounted to his appointment.

While Suresh Kumar had refused to defend his appointment, saying the onus was upon the state to do so, the State pleaded that the earlier judgement did not take into account the facts of the case and was in contravention of the well-settled principles of law.
 

The State's appeal, filed through the Chief Secretary and the Department of General Administration, argued that the Single Bench Bench did not explain how it deduced that the Cabinet Secretary’s powers and rank were being exercised by a contractual employee. Also, the State made a plea that Suresh Kumar was not empowered to exercise sovereign powers during the absence of the Chief Minister and such a claim could not be justified.
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Observing that courts cannot intervene in government decisions in such a manner, the Double Bench said, "There are serious pitfalls when courts start intervening in such a manner.”
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Observing that courts cannot intervene in government decisions in such a manner, the Double Bench said, "There are serious pitfalls when courts start intervening in such a manner.”

On its part, the State has been consistently claiming that Suresh Kumar's role was limited to recording the order and not passing the order on any file. Any orders were always passed by the CM as per the arrangement and the Single Bench's inference that the bureaucrat had the power to pass an order in the absence of the CM was factually incorrect.

"Hence, the findings recorded by the Court that the standing order and the appointment order made the respondent virtually the Chief Minister was contrary to the factual matrix.”

"In the present case, the terms and conditions of the appointment are very clear that the same are contractual in nature and co-terminus with the appointment of the present Chief Minister. Hence, the "impression” recorded by the court that the appointment of the respondent is against an ex-cadre post of an IAS cadre is not at all correct and is not supported by any document in that regard.” 

The bench observed that it is exercising its power of correctional jurisdiction. The division bench further observed that the petitioner doesn’t seem to have any link with governance and if it was a cause of public interest, the matter should have been listed before an appropriate bench.
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There has been much speculation in Punjab about those working overtime behind the scenes to muddy the waters for CM Amarinder Singh in this case. Media in Punjab has been rife about internal squabbles within the CMO that had upset Suresh Kumar more than the court case. 
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"We have heard learned counsel for the parties and 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 or the incumbent assigned the status of the Chief Principal Secretary.
 

"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," the judgement said.

CHIDAMBARAM IN COURT

The appearance of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram as a lawyer for the State is not only being seen as a move to strengthen the state’s legal case but also to send a clear signal to the rank and file that the Chief Minister was fully invested in defending Suresh Kumar’s position and appointment.

There has been much speculation in Punjab about those working overtime behind the scenes to muddy the waters for CM Amarinder Singh in this case. Media in Punjab has been rife about internal squabbles within the CMO that had upset Suresh Kumar more than the court case. 
 

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