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HC stays own order on appointments
Chautala’s ‘judicial victory’ short-lived
Yoginder Gupta & Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
Mr Om Prakash Chautala’s “judicial victory” over the Election Commission (EC) over the issue of appointments proved to be short-lived. The Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed the operation of its order of February 14, vide which it had held that the ban imposed by the EC on appointments “must be deemed to have outlived its operative effect” after the votes were cast on February 3.

The issue of appointments has brought Mr Chautala in direct clash with the Haryana bureaucracy as well as the EC.

After the judgement delivered by the Division Bench comprising Mr Justice J.S. Khehar and Mr Justice Tapen Sen was published in today’s newspapers, informed sources say, Mr Chautala held a meeting with Administrative Secretaries of various departments this morning and asked them if they were still afraid of issuing appointment letters after the court ruling. Barely two hours later, the news came that the Bench had stayed the operation of its order. The bureaucracy heaved a sigh of relief.

The Haryana Cabinet had also sent a missive to the EC on February 13 to review the ban within 48 hours. Before the deadline expired, the EC sought additional information on the issue from the Government. The information was to be supplied by this evening.

It is not known if the government had sent any information to the EC, which had also sought a report on the suspension of the Financial Commissioner and Principal Secretary, Finance and Town and Country Planning, Mr Bhaskar Chatterjee. Till yesterday the report had not been sent.

Mr Chautala at a Press conference here today gave the impression that he was in no mood to send the report to the EC because Mr Chatterjee was not handling any election-related work.

Mr Manmohan Lal Sarin, a Senior Advocate, had filed a review petition on behalf of the EC yesterday. He mentioned his petition before Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi, who asked him to appear before the Bench headed by Mr Justice Khehar. Mr Sarin urged the court to hear his petition at the earliest because he apprehended that Mr Chautala might make some announcement at the Press conference he was scheduled to address later in the day.

Mr Sarin contended that the February 14 order was based on a factual error. He pointed out that the process of casting votes had not been concluded on February 3. It would be completed on February 23 or thereafter when the repolling would be held. He said if the EC had been impleaded as a party in the case, the factual position would have been brought to the notice of the Bench.

The Bench felt that in the light of what Mr Sarin had pointed out “we consider it just and appropriate to stay the operative effect of the order dated February 14, 2005, in so far as it relates to grant of any further appointments for which, although the selection process had concluded, yet appointment orders were not issued in view of the model code of conduct.”

The court issued notice to the petitioner for March 1 next.

At the request of Mr Sarin, the court also ordered Mr M.S. Sindhu, Deputy Advocate-General, Haryana, to communicate its order on the telephone to the Chief Secretary and also send him a copy of the order as soon as it was available.

In another development, the Working President of the Haryana Congress, Mr Randeep Singh Surjewala, moved an application for being impleaded as a party in the case. He said he was “directly and substantially” interested and affected on account of the court’s interpretation of the model code of conduct.

In his application, Mr Surjewala alleged that the writ petition was filed in collusion with Mr Chautala, who “sensing his defeat in the ensuing Assembly elections had advertised thousands of posts for making regular recruitment apart from recruiting around 20,000 contractual or ad hoc appointees.

He also pointed out that the younger son of the Chief Minister, Mr Abhay Singh, had publicly announced that about 10,000 recruitments would be made between February 4 and February 27. He said he had represented to the EC in this regard on December 15. Considering the gravity of the matter, the EC imposed the code on December 17.

Immediately after the code was imposed, Mr Surjewala alleged, Mr Chautala ordered the officers to keep offices open on December 19, which was a Saturday, and issue appointment letters in back date. This was also brought to the notice of the EC. It was only after this that the EC had to write repeatedly to the state government that it should not make any appointments.

He also contended that Mr Chautala tried to browbeat the officers, including the Chief Secretary, when they refused to issue appointment letters in view of the EC’s ban.


Counting of votes in Haryana on Feb 23
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
In a sudden change of schedule, counting of votes for Haryana Assembly polls was today preponed by four days to February 23.

As per the revised schedule, counting of votes in Haryana will commence at 4 p.m. on February 23. Repolling in six polling booths in the state will also take place on the same day.

Importantly, the Election Commission has cited no specific reason for preponing the counting date, which was originally fixed for February 27.

All the Returning Officers have been instructed to intimate the change of schedule to all contesting candidates and their election agents in writing. 

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