Plea in HC for vacating order directing continuation of services of Delhi Assembly Fellows

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said it will pass an order on October 3 on whether to modify its interim direction for continuation of services of professionals engaged as fellows with the Delhi Assembly Research Centre whose contracts were terminated by the assembly secretariat.

Dealing with an application filed by the legislative assembly secretariat and other authorities concerned seeking vacation of the interim order passed earlier this month, Justice Subramonium Prasad said, “List for order on October 3. Let me think over it”.

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

The respondent authorities Wednesday argued the order cannot be sustained in view of the absence of sanction for the posts by the lieutenant governor and the pendency of the issue regarding control of services before the Supreme Court.

The counsel for the petitioners opposed the application and said the scope of the present petition and the matter pending before the top court did not overlap, and the petitioners were just “caught between two behemoths”.

The lawyer also said the application substantiated his concern about the breach of the principle of separation of power between the legislature and the executive.

The court raised concern over “propriety” and suggested that the petitioners seek clarification from the Supreme Court on the continuation of the petition here.

The counsel for the petitioners had earlier contended that the services of the fellows, who were appointed 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 petition said.

It 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 their salary 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, the petition 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 has said.

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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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