SC asks AAP govt to move HC against LG’s decision to fire 437 independent consultants

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the city’s AAP government to approach the Delhi High Court with its plea against the lieutenant governor’s decision to fire 437 independent consultants hired by the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud noted that the petition filed by the Delhi government challenging the Centre’s recent law on control over services in Delhi has already been referred to the constitution bench by an order dated July 20.

The top court clarified that its July 20 order will not come in the way of the high court dealing with the plea related to the termination of 437 independent consultants.

“Let them have their day in the Delhi High Court. Let them argue their petition there,” the bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said.

The Delhi High Court had earlier vacated its interim direction for continuation of services of consultants/professionals engaged as fellows with the Delhi Assembly Research Centre whose contracts were terminated by the assembly secretariat.

The court’s order had come on an application by the Legislative Assembly Secretariat and other authorities seeking vacation of the interim order of stay passed on September 21 on the ground that the issue is pending before the apex court.

Justice Subramonium Prasad of the high court had noted that the July 5 letter was “specifically challenged” by the Delhi government before the Supreme Court as part of its petition against the Centre’s ordinance which took away the control over services from the city dispensation, and the petitioner’s contention that the high court can look into the issue since no order has been passed by the top court cannot be sustained.

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

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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 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, 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.

The petitioners contended that non-payment of stipend and discontinuation of their services violated their fundamental rights and were a “colourable exercise of power”.

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