Disengaged Delhi Assembly Fellows move HC for continuation of service

Disengaged Delhi Assembly Research Centre fellows Thursday approached the Delhi High Court urging it to reinstate its earlier direction for continuation of their services.

The professionals, who had moved the high court earlier challenging the letter of termination of their services, also sought payment of salaries for the period they have already served.

Justice Subramonium Prasad sought the stand of the respondent authorities the Legislative Assembly Secretariat, Finance Department and Services Department, and asked their counsel to seek instructions.

Last month, the court had vacated its interim direction for continuation of the services of the petitioners, saying after the Supreme Court earlier declined to stay the termination, propriety demanded that the high court ought not have passed the interim order.

The counsel for the petitioners Thursday submitted that the top court has now clarified that it never considered the issue.

“They (petitioners) are struggling to make ends meet. Festive season is around the corner… Supreme Court has clarified that issue was never considered and the interim order should be instated,” he said.

The court directed that the matter be listed for hearing next week.

The court had vacated its interim order of stay passed on September 21 on an application of the Legislative Assembly Secretariat and other authorities on the ground that the issue is pending before the apex court.

It had noted that the July letter of termination was “specifically challenged” by the Delhi government before the Supreme Court as part of its petition against Centre’s ordinance which took away the control over services from the city dispensation.

The court had on September 21, on the petition by several terminated fellows, directed that their services with the Delhi Assembly Research Centre shall continue till December 6 and stipends will be paid to them.

The counsel for the petitioners had earlier contended that the services of the fellows, who were appointed after following the due procedure, were terminated prematurely in an “unceremonious, arbitrary and illegal manner” in the aftermath of a letter issued by the services department on July 5.

“The Petitioners were engaged as “Fellows” / “Associate Fellows” and as “Associate Fellows (Media)” for the Delhi Assembly Research Centre which was constituted pursuant to a recommendation of the General Purposes Committee of the Assembly in February, 2019 to create a dedicated research centre and team for the members of the Legislative Assembly of the NCT of Delhi,” their plea has said.

The petition said the July 5 letter directed that the engagement of the petitioners, for which the prior approval of the lieutenant governor had not been sought, be discontinued and disbursement of salary to them stopped.

The letter was kept in abeyance and the assembly speaker “informed the Hon’ble LG that he had directed officers of the Secretariat not to take any action in the matter without his approval” but they were not paid their stipends, it has added.

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“However, around the first week of August, 2023 they were prevented from marking their attendance by certain Departments. Thereafter, their engagement was discontinued vide the impugned order dated 09.08.2023,” the petition has said.

The petitioners have contended non-payment of their stipend and discontinuation of their services violated their fundamental rights and were a “colourable exercise of power”.

The petitioners said since they were engaged at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre, which functions under the aegis of the legislative assembly and the speaker, the interference by the services and the finance departments was in contravention of the doctrine of separation of powers.

They asserted their services cannot be terminated in the manner they have been, and the Delhi legislative assembly as well as the city government are bound by their promise of engaging the petitioners as per their terms of service.

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