Law & Judiciary

    CM's house renovation: HC directs PWD officials challenging Delhi govt’s show-cause notices to appro

    Pankaj Sharma
    September21/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    New Delhi: The High Court on Thursday directed the six PWD officials to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for challenging the show-cause notices issued to them by Delhi government's Directorate of Vigilance over the alleged gross violations of rules during the renovation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's official residence.

    Directorate of Vigilance and Special Secretary (Vigilance) Y.V.V.J. Rajasekhar had moved an appeal against single judge Justice Chandra Dhari Singh’s September 15 interim order, which said that no coercive steps should be taken by any authority against the PWD officials, who have challenged the show-cause notice.

    On Thursday, a division bench led by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma said that the petition moved by the PWD officials was not maintainable in view of the Supreme Court ruling in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India.

    “….. 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 bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula, said.

    With disposing of the petition by PWD officials saying that it is not maintainable, the bench also disposed of Delhi government’s appeal.

    It was Delhi government’s case that the petition is not at all maintainable as the PWD officials are Central government employees and must approach the CAT for challenging the disciplinary action.

    The bench also observed that it is not open for litigants to directly approach the high court even in cases where they question the vires of statutory legislations by overlooking the jurisdiction of the Tribunal concerned.

    It further said that it did not observe anything on the merits of the case, except the issue of “maintainability” of Delhi government’s appeal.

    On Tuesday, the court had reserved its verdict on Delhi government's appeal.

    The Directorate of Vigilance had contended that the order was passed without appreciating the fact that the alleged assurances were without any authority.

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

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

    Senior advocate Rahul Mehra and the 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, which was scheduled for October 12.

    On September 15, before the single judge, senior advocate Mohit Mathur appearing for the PWD officials had argued that some of the petitioners were transferred to Guwahati and disciplinary proceedings were also initiated against them despite the undertaking that no action will be taken.

    To which, Mehra and Tripathi had said that no coercive steps have been taken by the authorities against any petitioner in violation of the undertaking.

    The case stemmed from when the Directorate of Vigilance had issued show-cause notices to six PWD officials, including chief engineers, regarding the alleged violation of rules during the renovation of Kejriwal's official residence.

    PWD officials' plea had contended that the notices were issued without proper jurisdiction, competence, and with bias, alleging an abuse of the legal process. The officials claim to be made scapegoats in a political dispute between the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party.

    The show-cause notices said that the PWD officials recorded on the 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 the 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 the General Financial Rules, CPWD Manual, and CVC guidelines.