HC seeks LG's stand on DDCD vice chairman Jasmine Shah's plea against sealing office

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the stand of the lieutenant governor on the Delhi government think tank DDCDs vice chairman Jasmine Shahs challenge to the order restraining him from discharging his duties and sealing his office.Justice Yashwant Varma listed the case for further consideration on November 28 and asked the counsel appearing for the LG and other respondents to make submissions on that date.


PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 22-11-2022 18:47 IST | Created: 22-11-2022 18:47 IST
HC seeks LG's stand on DDCD vice chairman Jasmine Shah's plea against sealing office
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the stand of the lieutenant governor on the Delhi government think tank DDCD's vice chairman Jasmine Shah's challenge to the order restraining him from discharging his duties and sealing his office.

Justice Yashwant Varma listed the case for further consideration on November 28 and asked the counsel appearing for the LG and other respondents to make submissions on that date. Bearing in mind the question which arises, let the standing counsel appearing for respondents obtain instructions, the judge said. Shah has challenged the November 17 order issued by Director (Planning), Delhi government, on the LG's request to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to remove him from the post of vice chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD), and pending such a decision, to restrain him from using his office space and withdraw the staff and facilities assigned to him. Besides LG Vinai Kumar Saxena, the other respondents are Director (Planning), the Delhi chief minister who is the Chairman of DDCD, and the Sub Divisional Magistrate (Civil Lines).

''Come back on Monday. We will hear this," said the court as it observed it will have to examine the scope of the LG's power to pass the directions in question. "You (counsel for LG and others) have heard what has transpired. So you can also address submissions (on the next date). We are only concerned with the challenge to the jurisdiction which has been assumed by the honourable LG…. What will have to be considered is the scope of power that the LG can exercise," the court added. Delhi government's standing counsel Sanotsh Kumar Tripathi appeared for the respondents. Senior lawyer Rajiv Nayar, appearing for Shah, argued the petitioner was appointed pursuant to a decision of the Delhi cabinet and his appointment was coterminous with the term of the present government. The LG, he contended, has no power to restrain him from performing his duties.

In his petition, Shah has said the orders passed against him are a "gross abuse of power and process" and "wholly without any merit''. He called it an instance of colourable exercise of authority, illegal, ex facie malafide and patently lacking in jurisdiction. He has also assailed the order locking his office and withdrawing all facilities as well as privileges. The DDCD offices were sealed on the night of November 17 for preventing its alleged ''misuse by Shah for political gains''. The sealing exercise was undertaken by the Planning Department of the Delhi government.

In his petition before the high court, Shah has said in the absence of any directions from the Delhi Cabinet and the Chief Minister -- the competent authorities, the orders passed against him "suffer from a patent want of jurisdiction". It said there is no allegation of misuse of public funds or corruption in the complaint against him and the only grievance was that he expressed his political views during certain television debates.

"The sole object and purpose of the impugned orders is to victimise the petitioner for expressing his political views in television debates which were not to the liking of the Complainant, Shri. Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma, Member of Parliament of the BJP from West Delhi, and Respondent No.3 (LG) who acted on a complaint made by the former with alacrity, in a pre-meditated manner," the petition filed through lawyer Chirag Madan has said. The plea has said the vice chairperson of DDCD is appointed only to advise the government about public policy reform as an honorary member and cannot be regarded as a part of the permanent Executive/civil service/bureaucracy of the State and the conditions of service do not prohibit him from associating with any political party or espousing political opinions.

"The petitioner's appearance on television debates is within the lawful exercise of his fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression," the plea has said, while also clarifying that Shah is not a spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party. "The Petitioner who has stellar academic credentials and extensive national experience in the area of public policy reform has not misused/abused the office of Vice Chairperson, DDCD in any manner whatsoever and the allegations levelled by the complainant and findings returned in the impugned order are entirely baseless and misconceived," the petition has asserted. During the proceedings, the court also questioned the senior counsel for the petitioner about the kind of work that a person taking up an honorary position can be permitted to continue to perform.

''You may be an accomplished person but what is noted in the LG order got us thinking. Once you take up an honorary position, whether you are obliged to give up another part of the activities (or) while holding that office, you can continue and whether that should be permitted to continue,'' the court observed.

Shah was behind the Delhi government's ambitious electric vehicle policy and is the vice chairman of the think tank involved in drawing blueprints of various initiatives of the city government, including its food truck policy, electronic city, and shopping festival, among others.

He enjoys the rank of a Cabinet minister and is entitled to perks and privileges of a Delhi government minister like official accommodation, office, vehicle and personal staff.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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