Setback for AAP govt: HC refuses to remove Meena as ACB chief

Setback for AAP govt: HC refuses to remove Meena as ACB chief

In a setback to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his government, Delhi High Court today refused to restrain LG-appointee Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) chief M K Meena from entering his office, while asking him to act in "accordance with law".

Justice V P Vaish also turned down the Delhi government's oral request to stop Meena from taking out the FIR book out of the ACB headquarters, allowing recording of new FIRs and seeking removal of paramilitary personnel posted there.

As senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party government, sought directions to restrain Meena from allegedly pressurising ACB officials, the court directed him to act in "accordance with law" while asking the city government whether ACB would function "smoothly" if he was restrained.

It issued notice to the Centre directing it to file its response within two weeks and listed the application for further hearing on August 11 along with the ongoing litigation challenging Centre's notification giving Lt Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung absolute powers to appoint bureaucrats in the national capital.

The court also refused to implead Meena in the petition that the Delhi Government had filed challenging constitutional validity of Centre's May 21 notification.

The court was hearing Delhi government's plea alleging that Meena has been "misusing his powers to browbeat and threaten officials of ACB and the Vigilance Department", after AAP government-nominated ACB chief S S Yadav accused Meena of threatening and pressuring him.

During the course of arguments which went for around two hours, Jaising said during 49-days tenure as Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal government had in 2014 lodged 21 cases.

"No cases have been lodged after June 4, 2015. This is due to M K Meena took charge on June 8, 2015," she said.

Jaising also alleged that the "Centre has been repeatedly attempting to interfere with and hamper the smooth functioning of the ACB. The notification which have been impugned in the writ petition were the first attempt in this direction."

"On numerous occasions, he (Meena) has put pressure on ACB officers to transfer all cases of corruption involving police personnel from ACB to Delhi Police," the city government's counsel alleged and said "I want these intimidating tactics be stopped."

Jaising sought an interim order saying "it was an emergent situation, not an urgent" one to ensure that the ACB is allowed to function smoothly.

She also argued that ACB was being "prevented" from investigating acts of corruption and misuse or abuse of public office, "with the objective of shielding persons whose conduct was under investigation and to thereby thwart the course of administration of justice and enforcement of the rule of law in National Capital of Territory(NCT) of Delhi."

"The objective appears to be, to prejudice the attempts of the elected government to uproot corruption from the National Capital, hamper and scuttle an ongoing investigation and compromise crucial and sensitive evidence," Jaising said.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain contended that the ACB was a police station and since police fell within the Centre's purview, the Central Government was empowered to post someone to head it and Meena was a Joint Commissioner rank officer and "not some inspector".

Jain said the Delhi government's Home Department's order recalling appointment of Meena had been cancelled by the LG, who has said that it was void ab initio as the order was passed without taking approval from the competent authority.

The face-off between the LG and Kejriwal's government has resulted in the ACB now having two chiefs.

It all began on June 8, when Joint Commissioner Meena took charge of ACB after he was appointed by LG, superseding Additional Commissioner S S Yadav. Yadav had been hand-picked by Delhi government for the post. 

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