Removal of DDCD Vice Chairman: Reference to Prez Not As per Law, HC Told

Jasmine Shah urged the Delhi High Court on Thursday to restore his privileges as the vice chairman of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD) and claimed the lieutenant governor’s reference to the president of the matter pertaining to his removal was not in accordance with law.

Justice Prathiba M Singh was hearing Shah’s petition challenging an order of November 17, 2022 issued by the Director (Planning) of the Delhi government on the LG’s request to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to remove him from the post of vice chairperson of DDCD, and pending such a decision, to restrain him from using his office space and withdraw the staff and facilities assigned to him.

DDCD offices were subsequently sealed on the night of November 17 last year for preventing its alleged “misuse by Shah for political gains”. The sealing exercise was undertaken by the Planning Department of the Delhi government.

The senior lawyer appearing for Shah contended before the high court that the matters of appointment in the present instance fall within the domain of the chief minister, which has been recognised by the LG as well, and there was thus “no basis” for the orders under challenge.

Senior counsel Rajiv Nayar, representing Shah, further said the chief minister did not favour the removal and in the absence of any consultation with the council of ministers, the LG could not have referred the matter to the president.

The reference to the president was thus not in accordance with the law laid down by the Supreme Court and Transaction of Business Rules, he said.

“The CM restored status quo ante. And third letter (by LG) says there is difference of opinion. What is missing is the consultation which is mandatory. Where is the reference to the council? The Supreme Court constitution bench says it is mandatory. You must follow this sequence. There is a scheme,” Nayar submitted.

“If the reference is not a proper reference then we have to be restored to 16 November 2022 because the CM directions hold the field until the LG approaches the council of minister and then if there is a difference the matter goes to the President,” he added.

In December last year, the lieutenant governor had told the court that the issue relating to removal of DDCD’s vice chairman Jasmine Shah was pending before the President of India in terms of Article 239AA (4) of the Constitution and it would be prudent of all authorities not to take any further action in the matter.

Lieutenant Governor (LG) Vinai Kumar Saxena had said that Chief Minister Kejriwal, despite being aware that Shah’s matter was now required to be decided by the president, issued an order on December 8 directing the Planning Department to immediately recall the order by which Shah was restrained from discharging his duties in DDCD.

In his petition, Shah has submitted that the orders passed against him are a “gross abuse of power and process”, “wholly without any merit, an instance of colourable exercise of authority, illegal, ex facie malafide and patently lacking in jurisdiction”.

He has also assailed orders locking his office and withdrawing all facilities as well as privileges.

Shah was behind the Delhi government’s ambitious electric vehicle policy and is the vice chairman of the think-tank involved in drawing blueprints of various initiatives of the city government, including its food truck policy, electronic city, and shopping festival, among others.

He enjoys the rank of a Cabinet minister and is entitled to perks and privileges of a Delhi government minister like official accommodation, office, vehicle and personal staff.

The matter would be heard next on March 15.

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