Chandigarh: A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday stayed the order of a single judge bench of the same court which last month quashed the appointment of retired senior IAS officer Suresh Kumar as the Chief Principal Secretary to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
The division bench, comprising Justice Mahesh Grover and Justice Rajbir Sehrawat, issued notice of motion to the person who filed a petition against Kumar’s appointment and to Kumar and other respondents for April 17.
Former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram appeared for the Punjab government to challenge the single bench ruling of January 17 setting aside Kumar’s appointment.
The government pleaded before the division bench that the appointment of any person as a staff officer to assist him was the Chief Minister’s prerogative. It pointed out that Kumar did not possess the power to pass orders on any file.
The appeal added that Kumar neither took any decision nor recorded it. Only the decisions taken by the Chief Minister were recorded on the file.
Kumar’s disqualification by the court last month was seen as a major blow to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
The Chief Minister, who was clearly upset by the development, had directed Advocate General Atul Nanda to examine the judgment and appeal against it.
The single judge bench of Justice Rajan Gupta had ruled that the retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer was holding the post “in violation of Article 166 (3) of the Constitution” and thus the appointment was “null and void”.
Kumar is considered close to Amarinder Singh and was seen as the most powerful man in the state after him.
Kumar, a 1983-batch IAS officer, was appointed to the key post immediately after Amarinder Singh assumed office in March 2017. Kumar had retired as Additional Chief Secretary in April 2016. He was often referred to as the ‘super CM’ or ‘de facto CM’.
He was earlier the Principal Secretary to Amarinder Singh during the latter’s earlier tenure as Chief Minister from 2002-07.
It is still not clear if Kumar will return to work. The Chief Minister had gone to Kumar’s private residence in Sector 16 last week to persuade him to join back if the high court stayed the quashing of his appointment.
A lawyer had moved the High Court last year to challenge Kumar’s appointment.