The Delhi High Court today requested the Delhi Legislative Assembly not to take any "coercive steps" against three senior bureaucrats summoned by the Speaker of the House to appear before it for allegedly failing to answer certain questions of legislators.
Justice C Hari Shankar said that no "precipitative action" be taken against the three bureaucrats, who on June 7 were asked by Speaker Ram Niwas Goel to be present in the visitors gallery of the House today. The court said its interim order against the June 7 letter of the Speaker shall be in operation till June 13, the next date of hearing.
It said it was passing the interim order as serious issues have been raised in the petitions by the three bureaucrats and these need "proper consideration". The pleas against the June 7 letter have been moved by Sandeep Kumar, Education secretary, Nagendra Kumar, Services secretary, and Manisha Saxena, Revenue secretary.
Senior advocate Sanjay Jain and advocate Rajshekhar Rao, appearing for the three bureaucrats, told the court that the allegedly unanswered questions pertained to subjects of services and land, which along with law and order, are issues on which the assembly cannot legislate.
The lawyers said that in such a situation, queries raised by legislators about these subjects ought not to have been allowed by the Speaker. They also argued, that even if the questions were allowed, they may be answered by the Council of Ministers of Delhi government, but bureaucrats cannot be asked to provide inputs on those queries.
Jain and Rao also said that bureaucrats could not have provided inputs as they have been prohibited from doing so by their cadre controlling authority. They said his aspect was communicated to the Speaker by bureaucrats, but he did not consider it.
Meanwhile, Delhi government's additional counsel Gautam Narayan, appearing for the Assembly, said the bureaucrats are bound to comply with the June 7 letter. Earlier in the day, the petitions were mentioned by Rao before a vacation bench of Justices Sangita Dhingra Sehgal and C Hari Shankar which allowed it to be listed for hearing today as the bureaucrats had to appear before the House at 2pm.
Goel's letter of June 7 had warned the bureaucrats of strict action "as per rules" if they do not provide proper answers to three written questions asked by the ruling party legislators. The three-day session, which started on June 6, was scheduled to conclude on June 8. However, it was extended by one working day, i.e. till today.
Goel had on June 6 directed the bureaucrats to be present during assembly proceedings the next day after their departments allegedly did not supply answers to written questions of legislators. Angry with the development, the speaker had termed as "undeclared emergency" the situation where government officers are not providing answers asked by MLAs and blamed Lt Governor Anil Baijal for it.