New Delhi: The Delhi Assembly’s Privileges Committee, comprising AAP legislators, had a tough time on Tuesday in the high court which questioned the panel for changing its stand in the matter relating to chief secretary Anshu Prakash. Justice Vibhu Bakhru was hearing a fresh application by the committee seeking recall of the court’s August 28 order in which the panel was directed to produce before it the verbatim records and video recordings of the panel’s proceedings in which Prakash was questioned over certain issues.
Senior lawyer K.V. Viswanathan, who represented the panel, submitted that filing of video recordings of the proceedings and providing its verbatim record of the chief secretary would be in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers. He said it would be beyond the powers of the court to direct the panel to produce the video records.
The court noted that earlier the committee had sought to invoke the jurisdiction of the court to get the order in July, compelling the Chief Secretary’s appearance before the panel. “Now, the panel has contended that the court has no jurisdiction to look into those proceedings.”
The court also said that the earlier order was passed only after the counsel, who appeared for the panel that day, had said the verbatim records would be provided to the official as soon as it was authorised by the Speaker, who is in London and expected to return on September 16.
The lawyer had assured that the video records of the proceedings would be filed in court before the next date of hearing on September 18. Lawyer Vivek Chib, appearing for the chief secretary, opposed the submission of the panel’s lawyer on the doctrine of separation of powers.
He argued that the law is settled on the issue of court’s jurisdiction to review any violation of a person’s fundamental rights vis-a-vis the procedural Rules framed under the Constitution.The court said it would hear on September 18 the issue of jurisdiction.
The panel’s application was filed in a pending petition of Mr Prakash who had moved the high court in March after he was served a notice by the Privileges Committee for skipping a meeting on February 20. The meeting, in which he was asked to appear, was scheduled a day after he was allegedly assaulted by two AAP MLAs — Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal.
The court had earlier expressed displeasure with the panel for not completing its breach of privilege proceedings against the chief secretary despite questioning him for over four hours. After the panel’s advocate had said the officer’s presence was not required for now, the judge had made it clear “no further hearing shall be scheduled” by the panel till September 18. The high court on July 24 had told Prakash that he was “adequately protected” against any punishment by the Assembly committee. It had said that its order of July 13 was “expressly clear” that he would have to participate in the proceedings before the Privileges Committee and if any punishment was imposed on him, it would not be implemented till his plea against the panel’s notice to him was decided.
The Privileges Committee had issued him a notice on a complaint by the Question and Reference (Q&R) Committee of the Assembly. The high court had on March 9 asked the panels not to take coercive steps against the IAS officers. The committee had issued the notice after receiving a complaint against the chief secretary by the Q&R Committee. This panel had also served notice on two IAS officers — J B Singh, Registrar of Cooperative Societies, and Shurbir Singh, chief executive officer of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board.