21 Sep 2023 8:30 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the six PWD officials to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal for challenging the show cause notices issued to them by Delhi Government’s Vigilance department over alleged gross violations of rules in renovation work undertaken at official residence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish...
The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the six PWD officials to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal for challenging the show cause notices issued to them by Delhi Government’s Vigilance department over alleged gross violations of rules in renovation work undertaken at official residence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula said that the petitions moved by the PWD officials before a single judge challenging the show cause notices was not maintainable in view of the Supreme Court ruling in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India.
“….the petition itself is not maintainable and the writ petition before the learned Single Judge stands disposed of with liberty to respondents No.1 to 6 to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal by filing an Original Application as provided under Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act,” the court said.
The bench disposed of an appeal moved by the Delhi Government challenging an order passed by the single judge last week directing that no coercive steps be taken by any authority against the six PWD officials.
The Delhi Government raised a preliminary objection in the matter stating that a writ petition was not at all maintainable as the PWD officials are Central Government employees and must approach the Central Administrative Tribunal for challenging the disciplinary action.
While disposing of the plea, the bench observed that it is not open for litigants to directly approach the High Courts even in cases where they question the vires of statutory legislations by overlooking the jurisdiction of the Tribunal concerned.
“…the fact remains that the Constitution Bench in L. Chandra Kumar (supra) – after discussing Article 323A of the Administrative Tribunals Act, has arrived at a conclusion that the Tribunals will continue to act like courts of first instance in respect of the areas of law for which they have been constituted,” the court said.
However, the bench clarified it did not observe anything on merits of the case, except the issue of maintainability of Delhi Government’s appeal.
Factual Background and Case before Single Judge
On August 17, the court had issued notice on the officials’ plea and sought response of the Delhi Government through Director of Vigilance, Special Secretary of Vigilance and Public Works Department.
The PWD and Delhi Government’s Director of Vigilance had then, on instructions, submitted that no coercive steps shall be taken against the PWD officials till October 12.
A fresh application was moved by the PWD officials seeking to restrain the Delhi Government or its National Capital Civil Services Authority from ordering departmental or criminal action against them in contravention to the assurance given to the court.
It was the case of the PWD officials that the show cause notices dated June 19 have been issued by the Vigilance department which is neither authorized nor competent to initiate the disciplinary action.
They contended that the officials, being PWD officers, were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Vigilance department with respect to any disciplinary proceedings.
In their plea, the PWD officials had submitted that the impugned show cause notices is an outcome of the “political tussle” between the Lt. Governor and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and that they have been made scapegoat in the matter.
It further added that the impugned notices “unfairly singled out and targeted” the PWD officials inspite of the fact that all the work was undertaken by them for the official residence of the Chief Minister under the instructions of the concerned PWD minister and not for their personal gain.
“The impugned notice smells of bias against the Petitioner. The Petitioner has not violated any rule, statute or office orders. The work undertaken by the Petitioner with regard to the official bunglow of the CM of GNCTD was in full discharge and in due course of his official duties. The Petitioner followed the instructions of the Hon'ble Minister of PWD, GNCTD and have consistently performed his duties under his vigilant supervision,” the plea read.
Case Title: GOVERNMENT OF NCT OF DELHI & ANR. v. SH. ASHOK KUMAR RAJDEV & ORS
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 869