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Monday, October 03 2022
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Delhi: SC closes contempt case on Union Home Secretary

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday closed a contempt case against Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla for allegedly violating its order passed on April 15, 2019 for maintaining status quo in connection with the promotion of officers.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, said: “We see no reason to entertain this contempt petition. This, however, should not be taken as reflection upon merits of the matter which would be decided in appeals.”

The court passed its order after hearing submissions from Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the Centre, and advocate Kumar Parimal, representing petitioner Debanand Sahoo, and noting that there would be ramifications when a contempt petition is kept pending.

Bhalla had told the Supreme Court that the Central government went through with ad hoc promotions of its staff based on their seniority without looking at their status of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, to meet exigencies.

In a response to contempt notice, he said: “This was done to meet the exigencies of government service without violating any order of this court and on the basis of the written opinion of the Attorney General (AG) of India.”

Bhalla, who was holding additional charge of Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training during October 1, 2020 to January 24, 2021, said that on the AG’s opinion, ad hoc promotions to the Senior Selection (Director) Grade of CSS were made on December 11, 2020 and January 8, 2021 purely by selecting candidates according to their position in the seniority list without the SC/ST status being looked at.

“No reservation of posts was made in these ad hoc promotions and no rights whatsoever were created in favour of those promoted,” he added.

The apex court, on April 9, had sought response from Bhalla on Sahoo’s contempt petition.

In April 2019, the top court had issued directions to maintain status quo in connection with promotion of the officers. In July 2022, the DoPT made an application for permission to grant ad-hoc promotion, which was declined by the apex court.

Citing the top court’s judgment in ‘Jarnail Singh and Ors Vs Lachhmi Narain Gupta and Ors’, delivered on January 28 this year, Bhalla said pursuant to this judgment and the AG’s opinion, regular promotions have been carried out satisfying the conditions set out in the case of ‘M Nagaraj and Ors Vs Union of India and Ors’ (2006) as well as the judgment in Jarnail Singh case.

On Tuesday, the apex court scheduled the hearing on state government’s decision to grant reservation in promotion to SC/ST employees for hearing after two weeks, and also consider a review petition filed against January 28 judgement in the Jarnail Singh case.

 
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