Don’t discontinue services of Delhi assembly fellows, pay stipend: HC

The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed that the services of professionals engaged as fellows with the Delhi Assembly Research Centre, whose contracts were terminated by the assembly secretariat, shall continue in their positions till December 6 and stipends paid to them.

Justice Subramonium Prasad sought the stand of the Delhi legislative assembly secretariat as well as services, and finance departments on a petition by 17 such fellows assailing the termination of their contracts.

“Till the next date of hearing, let services of the petitioners be not discontinued and petitioners be given stipend. Replies be filed within two weeks. List on December 6,” the court directed.

The court noted the assembly speaker had earlier said the reasons for termination were not applicable to the services of the petitioners, and sought an explanation on the change in the stand.

“Issue notice to respondents to explain why this sudden change in attitude of respondent no 1 (assembly secretariat),” the court said.

The counsel for the petitioners contended that the services of the fellows, who were appointed after following 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 said.

The petition said the July 5 letter directed that the engagement of the petitioners, for which 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 added.

“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 said.

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The petitioners 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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