Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s chief principal secretary Suresh Kumar has “given up” his position in the CM’s Office, once again, upset over the government “not defending him” in a high court case challenging his appointment.
Kumar returned his official vehicles to the government and relieved his staff Tuesday, remaining incommunicado since.
This is the third time in two years that Kumar has given up his position over the court case. In June 2019, Kumar had resigned from his position, but his resignation was not accepted. In September, he stopped going to office but was convinced by Amarinder to resume work.
Sources said Kumar never joined his office in the CMO after September 2019, but had been working from the Punjab Bhawan. His latest attempt to give up his position came after the case was adjourned last week, once again, without a hearing.
Sources close to Kumar told ThePrint that he was feeling “let down” and “distraught” at the “lackadaisical manner” in which the government was defending his appointment to the CMO.
Sources in the government, however, said they were yet to receive any “official intimation” from Kumar about him having given up his position as the chief principal secretary.
Kumar, considered a close confidant of Amarinder, is by far the most powerful person in the CMO, perceived by many to be the de facto chief secretary of the state. He was principal secretary to Amarinder during the latter’s first tenure as CM from 2002 to 2007.
Kumar is a 1983-batch IAS officer who superannuated as additional chief secretary in 2016 during the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP regime. He was handpicked by Amarinder as his chief principal secretary a day after taking over as the chief minister in March 2017, when the Congress government came to power. Kumar was appointed in the rank of cabinet secretary of the Government of India.
The against Kumar’s appointment in Punjab & Haryana HC
Kumar’s appointment was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in August 2017 by an advocate Ramandeep Singh, who said it was not done according to set rules. The petitioner had contended that Kumar was appointed on a cadre post, which he cannot occupy as a retired officer.
In January 2018, the HC set aside Kumar’s appointment upholding the petitioner’s contentions, saying the retired IAS officer was holding a public office without “authority of law”. Following the judgment, Kumar had immediately remitted office.
In February 2018, the Punjab government challenged the single-judge bench’s order. Former Union minister P. Chidambaram represented the Punjab government in the case. A division bench of the HC stayed the single bench order after which Kumar resumed his duties.
“Last year in June, Kumar rendered his resignation unhappy at the manner in which the state’s legal department was handling his case in the court. He was particularly upset that the state counsel were not following up the case in the court which had kept the case adjourned for months,” said a colleague of Kumar, who did not wish to be named.
In September last year, Kumar stopped coming to office, again upset over the advocate general’s office not pushing the case for an early decision. After three days, Amarinder was able to convince Kumar to return to work.
“The petition in Kumar’s case was filed within a few months of his appointment and the high court’s judgment also came within a few months of that. The entire process of his removal took 10 months. Since then, it has been 30 months and the government has not been able to defend his appointment. It suits a lot of people that the Damocles Sword is hanging over such a senior functionary of the state,” said the colleague.
He added that the last substantive hearing in the case happened in February this year.
“Kumar feels that he is being dragged into a controversy unnecessarily. If the government wants him to work, it should be with dignity and the government will have to defend him aggressively.”
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