Kejriwal bungalow renovation row: HC reserves verdict on Delhi govt’s plea 

The Delhi High Court Tuesday reserved its verdict on the city government’s challenge to a single judge bench order of no coercive action against six PWD officials who were issued show cause notices over “gross violation” of rules in the renovation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s official residence.

The appeal filed by the Directorate of Vigilance and Special Secretary (Vigilance) Y.V.V.J. Rajasekhar sought setting aside of a September 15 interim order of a single judge of the high court which said no coercive steps shall be taken by any authority against the petitioner PWD officials till October 12.

The appeal came up before a division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula which reserved its verdict.

The single judge had passed the interim order after taking serious exception to the city authorities failing to exercise restraint and taking contravening steps despite an undertaking given by its counsel that no coercive steps will be taken against the officials.

Earlier, senior advocate Rahul Mehra and Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi had given an undertaking to the single judge that no coercive action will be initiated against the petitioner officials.

The Directorate of Vigilance, in its appeal filed through advocates Yoginder Handoo and Mananjay Mishra, contended the order was passed without appreciating the fact that the alleged assurances were without any authority.

Senior advocate Kirti Uppal, representing the appellants, apprised the division bench of an office memorandum of the Delhi government’s Department of Law and Justice according to which ” all Standing Counsel(s)/Additional Counsel(s) and empanelled Counsel(s) to ensure that written and verbal submissions made by them shall have to be strictly in consonance with the written instructions given to them with the approval of the Administrative Secretary of the concerned Department “.

He claimed no statement could be made without written instructions from the competent authority.

On the other hand, Mehra argued they had proper instructions from the PWD minister to assist the court. He said the minister had given them written instructions to defend the case in the high court and to state that no coercive action will be taken against the petitioner officials.

The single judge had earlier issued a notice and sought the response of the Delhi government through the Directorate of Vigilance, Special Secretary (Vigilance) and the PWD on the main petition challenging the show cause notices.

The Directorate of Vigilance had issued show cause notices to six PWD officials over alleged violation of rules in the renovation of Kejriwal’s official residence. The notices issued to the chief engineers concerned and other PWD officials asked them to explain their actions.

The single judge of the high court was hearing the petition by the six officials, filed through senior advocate Mohit Mathur, seeking quashing of the show cause notices issued to them on June 19 by the Special Secretary (Vigilance) on the grounds that they were issued by the top officer “without jurisdiction and competence, with premeditation and with closed mind in complete abuse of the process of law”.

It said the notices were the “outcome of a political tussle between the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the ruling party in NCT of Delhi” in which the petitioners were made “scapegoats”.

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The PWD officials said in their petition they did not violate any rule, statute or office order and the work undertaken with regard to the official bungalow was in full discharge and in due course of their official duties.

“The petitioner(s) followed the instructions of the minister of PWD, GNCTD (Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi) and have consistently performed his duties under his vigilant supervision. It will not be out of place to emphasise that the petitioner all along acted in good faith, with no default, lapse or negligence on his part,” their petition said.

The show cause notices to the officials, however, said the old structure was demolished without a survey report and no building plan was sanctioned for the new building constructed by the PWD.

The notices asked the PWD officials to explain their version “as all such acts have been done by them in gross violation of general financial rules, CPWD manual and CVC guidelines”.

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