No coercive steps against PWD officials in connection with Kejriwal’s home renovation: Delhi HC

Delhi High Court on Friday directed that no coercive steps be taken against six PWD officials who have challenged the showcause notices issued to them by the Directorate of Vigilance in connection with alleged “gross violations” of rules in the renovation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s official residence.

The high court took serious exception at the city authorities failing to exercise restraint and taking contravening steps despite an undertaking given by its counsel that no coercive steps would be taken against the officials.

“On the said date, this court did not pass an interim order in light of the undertaking given by Mr (Santosh Kumar) Tripathi and Mr (Rahul) Mehra that no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners … yet, the respondents acting in violation of the undertaking, failed to exercise restraint and took contravening steps against the petitioners in the teeth of the order passed by this court,” Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said.

The high court was hearing an application filed by the public works department (PWD) officials seeking that an interim order for no coercive steps against them be passed.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Mohit Mathur submitted that despite a categorical statement and undertaking given to the court by senior advocate Mehra and standing counsel Tripathi for respondents no 1 to 5 (government authorities) on August 17 that no coercive steps shall be taken by them against the petitioners till the next date of hearing, some of the petitioners have been transferred to Guwahati.

Disciplinary proceedings have also been initiated against some of the petitioners, he said.

Mehra and Tripathi submitted that no coercive steps have been taken by them against any of the petitioners in violation of the undertaking.

Advocate Yogender Handoo, also appearing for the Directorate of Vigilance and the Special Secretary (Vigilance), submitted that no coercive steps have been taken and added that certain facts have not been disclosed in the application.

However, Justice Singh said the contentions made by the petitioners’ counsel raise serious concerns for the court that an undertaking given by the standing counsel has been “overlooked and disregarded”.

“In case, the state was willing to take any coercive steps against the petitioners they should have moved an appropriate application seeking leave of the court for the same,” the high court said.

The court said it was inclined to pass an interim order in favour of the petitioners and directed, “Accordingly, no coercive steps shall be taken by any authority against the petitioners till the next date of hearing. List on October 12.”

The high court 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 petition.

The Directorate of Vigilance has issued showcause notices to six PWD officials in connection with the alleged “gross violations” 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 high court was hearing the petition by the six officials seeking quashing of the showcause 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” and the petitioners have been made “scapegoats”.

“The malafide intentions and extraneous considerations behind the issue of the impugned notice is further clear from the fact that it has been leaked in the social media without waiting further reply (to) the same. It is clear from the language of the notice and the subsequent actions of the respondent no 1 (Directorate of Vigilance) and 2 (Special Secretary Vigilance) that the main target is the ruling party in NCT of Delhi,” it said.

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The plea said the special secretary lacks legal authority to issue the showcause notices, which are liable to be quashed on this ground alone.

It said the officials have not violated 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,” it 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 said.

This residential complex of the chief minister has been constructed in violation of his entitlements, the notices further said.

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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