Can people who hold honorary positions continue their political activities while in office? Delhi HC on Jasmine Shah’s plea against LG’s order


The Delhi High Court on Tuesday ordered Lt. Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena and the planning department to respond to the petition of Deputy Chairperson of the Delhi Dialogue and Development Commission (DDCD), Jasmine Shah, against the Saxena’s decision asking Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to remove Shah from his post, and prevent him from carrying out his duties as VC in the meantime.

In the order conveyed by Director (Planning) Vijendra Singh Rawat on November 17, the LG called on Kejriwal to remove Shah from his post for allegedly abusing public office for political gain. Pending the Chief Minister’s decision, Shah has been restricted by the LG from using his office space and the staff and facilities assigned to him have also been withdrawn. According to the petition, Shah’s office was sealed and all privileges and facilities accorded to him as Vice President were withdrawn.

Justice Yashwant Varma asked Permanent Advocate (Civil) Delhi, Santosh Kumar Tripathi, who said he is appearing for LG as well as Director (Planning), to seek directions and scheduled the case for hearing on September 28 .

“Mr. Tripathi, we are only concerned with the challenge to the jurisdiction which has been assumed by the Honorable Lieutenant Governor. What will have to be considered is the extent of the power which the Honorable LG can exercise. ..”, the court said.

Senior lawyers Rajiv Nayar and Dayan Krishnan represented the Shah in court. During the hearing, Nayar argued that the LG had no power to make such a decision and that the clauses on which the action against Shah was based were “completely unfounded”.

“A section and a rule have been put into operation in the contested order. Both of them only talk about the duties of the chief minister in relation to providing information to LG,” Nayar said, adding that the research d ‘”information” can not mean that LG can pass. An order.

The appointment is by cabinet decision and coincides with the government, the court said. “The LG recognizes the fact by asking the Chief Minister to act,” argued Nayar.

The court observed that the order was only a recommendation and asked if the Chief Minister had acted on it.

However, Nayar said a directive had been passed by the LG in the meantime preventing Shah from serving as vice president.

“Without the chief minister acting he has unilaterally sealed office etc. I wonder if you ask someone to act and when you have no power can you say in the meantime I will pass this order,” Nayar explained.

As Nayar argued that Shah’s office had been sealed, Judge Varma orally remarked “it’s not his office…at any rate, it’s not his [Shah’s] personal space. No matter.”

Judge Varma also asked how the Vice President of the DDCD is appointed.

“This particular notification does not specify how the vice president is appointed. Could it be anyone? There are no qualifications? Nothing prescribed at all? asked the court.

When Nayar referred to Shah’s achievements, Varma said: “I want to understand the nature of this commission. It is a body founded by the GNCTD, funded by the GNCTD. These are all honorary positions to deal with the affairs of the GNCTD?”

The fact is that you may be a very accomplished person…but what was noted in the order of the Honorable LG, it also leads us to believe that the people who hold these honorary positions might also be. ..because that’s what actually triggered LG’s action,” the court said.

Judge Varma further observed: “…it strikes us, that once you have taken up this honorary position, that you are obliged to give up another part of the activities. While occupying this position or this post, can you continue…and if this should be allowed to continue”.

In September, BJP MP Pravesh Sahib Singh filed a complaint alleging Shah acted as the official spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi party to the media, calling it an abuse of public office.

Shah, who was appointed chairman of the government think tank in 2020, received a show cause notice last month from the director of the planning department for “alleged misuse of public resources” for political purposes. Shah had opted to submit his response to the Chief Minister through the Deputy Chief Minister/Minister (Planning). The LG had previously requested a copy of the response from the chief minister’s office, but this was not provided, according to the planning department.

Shah argued that the terms of the DDCD constitution reflect that the sole jurisdiction and oversight authority over the appointment and discharge of office of the vice president is that of the Cabinet and chief ministers. The Director (Planning) had no authority to take cognizance of the complaint or to ask the complainant for explanations or to give instructions.

“In the order of things and in accordance with the law, the complaint should have been forwarded to the competent authority, namely the chairman of the DDCD, for consideration and necessary action,” Shah said in his plea.

Arguing that the November 17 order itself concedes the position that any action against him can only be taken by the Chief Minister/DDCD Chairman, Shah said the order to bar him from serving as vice-president is obviously premature, without any authority and mala fide. “All consequential actions and measures taken in this regard are also, therefore, illegal,” he argued.

Defending his political activities, Shah argued that the expectation of “political neutrality” is only associated with “government officials” who make up the “permanent executive” in a parliamentary system of democracy such as that adopted by the ‘India.

“Only persons appointed to a public office or holding a civil position in connection with the affairs of the Union are governed by the rules of the CCS (conduct). The petitioner, on the other hand, was appointed by the cabinet of the GNCTD to advise the government on governance issues and its mandate coincides with that of the current government. It is not part of the “permanent executive” but, at the highest level, one could perhaps say that it is an extension of ” political executive”, the plea argues.

Shah also stated that he is not entrusted with any responsibilities, duties or functions which would involve the exercise of state executive, administrative or judicial powers or authority on behalf of or on behalf of the NCT Government of Delhi, such as approval of the DDCD budget, appointment of staff or payment of salaries and therefore it has no master servant relationship with the government.

He also stated that he had never used the official premises of the DDCD for a televised debate or media interaction “as alleged in the complaint, and approved in the contested order”. The lawsuits against Shah are a witch hunt aimed solely at gaining maximum publicity at the cost of humiliating him and disparaging “his tireless efforts in the service of the people of the nation’s capital”, the plea in court alleges.

“The sole object and purpose of the contested orders is to victimize the petitioner for expressing his political views in televised debates which were not to the liking of the Complainant, Shri. Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma, BJP MP for West Delhi, and Respondent #3 [LG] who acted on a complaint filed by the former in an eager, premeditated manner,” Shah’s attorneys said in the plea.

The order against Shah is a gross abuse of power and process, the plea argues, adding that the “disguised exercise” of authority is patently lacking in jurisdiction in addition to being completely baseless.

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Richard V. Johnson