The Madras High Court has issued a notice to the Centre and Union territory of Puducherry on a public interest litigation (PIL), challenging the appointment of IAS officer G Theva Neethi Dhas as OSD to Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi.
A division bench comprising Justices M Sathyanarayanan and P Rajamanickam passed the interim order, returnable by December 7, on the PIL filed by P Saravanan.
The petitioner submitted that Ms Bedi had sent a proposal to the centre on April 17, recommending the appointment of Mr Dhas as her advisor.
However, the government in its reply said he cannot be appointed as an advisor, but may be considered for assignment on a consultancy basis for a fixed tenure.
The petitioner claimed that Chief Minister V Narayanasamy had written to Bedi on June 29 to name the successor of Dhas, a day before he was to retire.
However, it later came to light that the Confidential and Cabinet Department had on June 26 itself had issued a letter of proposal pursuant to which Dhas was appointed as officer on special duty (OSD) for a period of two years from July 1, 2018 at a contractual fee of Rs 1,16,737 per month, he submitted.
The copy of the proposal and consequent appointment was also sent to the Chief Minister's Office (CMO), he said.
Alleging that the appointment made without the consent and approval of the chief minister was illegal and arbitrary, the petitioner moved the court to quash the appointment.
The procedure for appointment of retired government officials as consultants shall be on submission of a proposal before the Consultancy Evaluation Committee consisting of department officials concerned, but in this case, the procedure was violated, he contended.
Moreover, there was no such post as officer on special duty to Lieutenant Governor, he added.
On October 8, the court had sought affidavits from three top Puducherry officials on Saravanan's claim of having obtained confidential reports through RTI, using which he challenged the appointment of Dhas as OSD to Bedi.Saravanan had filed confidential reports and documents in the form of typed set of papers, claiming that he had obtained them through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
He alleged that the appointment of Mr Dhas, who had retired as secretary to the Lt governor, had been made in violation of rules and keeping the chief minister in the dark and was a colourable exercise of power by Bedi.
The court had observed how confidential documents, reports and demi-official letters such as file notings with the signatures of the chief secretary and other officials had been obtained.
It had directed the Puducherry chief secretary, principal finance secretary and the secretary to the Confidential and Cabinet Department to file separate affidavits setting forth the details whether any application was made under RTI by the petitioner for the reports and documents.
The petitioner had also submitted that when quite a number of officers senior to Dhas had been waiting to get such a post, his appointment as OSD was "illegal, incorrect, biased and violative of the principles of natural justice."