Chandigarh, February 14
Less than a month after a Single Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court set aside the appointment of retired IAS officer Suresh Kumar as the Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, a Division Bench on Wednesday stayed the operation of the order.
The Bench of Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Rajbir Sehrawat also issued notice of motion to the petitioner before the Single Bench, Suresh Kumar and other respondents for April 17. Former finance minister P Chidambaram appeared for the state.
Claiming appointment of any person as a staff officer to assist him was the Chief Minister’s prerogative, the state was seeking directions for setting aside the Single Bench judgment.
Dubbing the verdict as contrary to facts on record and against well-settled principles of law, the state in its appeal filed through the Chief Secretary and the Department of General Administration added that it enjoyed the power to assign duties to an appointee.
Referring to the Single Judge verdict, the state asserted that the Bench had not given the basis for recording that Cabinet Secretary’s powers and rank had been given to a contractual employee and allowing him to exercise sovereign powers during the absence of the Chief Minister could not be justified.
The state’s clear-cut stand in the written arguments was that Kumar was not passing any order on any file. It is only the Chief Minister who passed an order. The High Court’s observation that Kumar had the power to pass an order in the Chief Minister’s absence was factually incorrect and not borne out of the standing order impugned by the petitioner before the Single Judge.
The appeal added that Kumar neither took any decision, nor recorded it. Only the decisions taken by the Chief Minister were recorded on the file. “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.”
It was also averred that the High Court in the entire judgment had not pointed out any disqualification Kumar was having for holding the post. The court only stated that the appointment order and the standing order gave an “impression” that a de facto cadre post was being created by the state to appoint Kumar which was unsustainable.
“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.”