Delhi HC gives PWD officials interim protection from coercive steps – FH

New Delhi, Sep 15 (Fresh Headline) The Delhi High Court on Friday ordered that no coercive steps should be taken by any authority against six PWD officials, who have challenged the show-cause notice issued to them by the Directorate of Vigilance over alleged gross violations of rules during the renovation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s official residence.

While passing an interim order, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed that despite an undertaking given to the court by the city authorities that no coercive steps shall be taken against the officials, steps were taken against them in the “teeth of the judicial order”.

“Upon considering the entirety of the matter, including the submissions made before this court today, this court is inclined to pass an interim order in favour of the petitioners. Accordingly, no coercive steps shall be taken by any authority against the petitioners till the next date of hearing,” the judge said.

On August 17, the high court had sought the response of Delhi government and others on a plea filed by six PWD officials challenging the show-cause notice.

The plea filed by the six officials, represented by senior advocate Salman Khurshid, seeks to quash the show-cause notices issued by the Special Secretary (Vigilance).

Senior advocate Rahul Mehra and Delhi government’s standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, representing the Directorate of Vigilance and PWD, had assured the court that no coercive measures would be taken against the officials until the next hearing on October 12.

Now, a fresh application has been moved by the PWD officials seeking to restrain the authorities from ordering department or criminal action against them in contravention to the assurance given to the court.

Senior advocate Mohit Mathur appearing for PWD officials argued that some of the petitioners were transferred to Guwahati and disciplinary proceedings were also initiated against them despite the undertaking.

Advocates Rahul Mehra and Santosh Tripathi appearing for the Delhi government said that no coercive steps have been taken by the authorities against any petitioner in violation of the undertaking.

“The contentions made by the learned senior counsel for the petitioners raises serious concerns for this court that an undertaking given by the standing counsel has been overlooked and disregarded.

“In case the state was willing to take any coercive steps against the petitioners, they should have moved an appropriate application seeking leave of the court for the same,” the court observed.

During the last hearing, Justice Singh had issued notices to the Delhi government through the Directorate of Vigilance, Special Secretary (Vigilance), and the Public Works Department.

They have been given a time-frame of four weeks to submit their counter affidavit in response to the petition.

The court had also noted the objections raised by Special Secretary (Vigilance), Y.V.V.J. Rajasekhar, regarding statements made on behalf of the state. Furthermore, the court has excluded the PWD minister’s office and the Chief Minister’s office as respondents in the case.

The Directorate of Vigilance had previously issued show-cause notice to six PWD officials, including chief engineers, regarding the alleged rule violations during the renovation of Kejriwal’s official residence. The officials were required to explain their actions.

The plea contends that the notice was issued without proper jurisdiction, competence, and with bias, alleging an abuse of the legal process.

The officials claim to be scapegoats in a political dispute between the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party.

The plea further says that the notices were leaked on social media even before a proper response was provided, indicating malicious intent.

It argues that the Special Secretary lacks the legal authority to issue such notices and alleges that the notices infringe upon the officials’ rights and damage their reputation.

The officials maintain that they followed the instructions of the PWD Minister and performed their duties diligently.

They say that the work undertaken for the Chief Minister’s official accommodation was in line with their official responsibilities and was carried out under supervision.

The show-cause notice said that PWD officials recorded on files of the department that as per the requirement of the Chief Minister, changes have been made in the drawings of the interiors, which resulted in deviation in the total work done and the amount sanctioned for it. They claim that the renovation was done without adherence to building regulations and financial guidelines.

Additionally, the officials are alleged to have constructed a residential complex for the chief minister that exceeded the allowable size outlined by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs guidelines.

The notices demand an explanation from the PWD officials for their actions, highlighting that they are in violation of General Financial Rules, CPWD Manual, and CVC guidelines.

–Fresh Headline