HC dismisses ex-ICSSR chief's plea

NEW DELHI, JAN. 31. Terming the sacking of the erstwhile Chairman of the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), M.L. Sondhi, in July last year as ``political in nature'', the Delhi High Court today dismissed his petition seeking setting aside of the Government order of July 18, 2001 removing him from the post.

``The dispute is essentially political in nature and the court should steer clear of its vicissitudes, vagaries and fluctuating fortunes'', Justice Vikramjit Sen said dismissing the petition.

``In these circumstances, the writ petition and the application for stay are dismissed'', Mr. Justice Sen said in his 44-page judgment.

Justifying his premise to dismiss the petition, Justice Sen recalled the principle of separation of powers and said: ``Where decisions are purely political in character, it would be transgression of judicial review if courts enter upon a controversy which is essentially political in origin and character''.

However, the Judge held that Article 226 is fully applicable to the ICSSR meaning thereby that it is an instrumentality of the state and a writ can issue to if a case is made out.

According to the press note issued by the Government at that time, Mr. Sondhi had been removed following receiving of numerous complaints regarding irregularities in the Council by some members of the body.

However, Mr. Sondhi had alleged in his petition that he had been removed from the research body as he refused to ``be subservient to the political and ideological dictates of some members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at Centre''.

He had further alleged that his nomination to the Council's Chairman was withdrawn so as replace him with some other pliable person who is partisan to the agenda of the Government to toe its line.

The Judge also dismissed submission by Shanti Bhushan, counsel for Mr. Sondhi, that the court should quash the Government's order of July 18 dismissing his client as he was removed without even being given an opportunity to be heard.

Quoting a Supreme Court ruling where it has been held that the principle of natural justice applies in those cases where dismissals from services cause ``stigma'' to the persons to be affected, Justice Sen said that Mr. Sondhi's removal was ``non-stigmatic'', notwithstanding the subsequent interest and coverage that it generated in the press''.

Commenting on the implied reasons for Mr. Sondhi's appointment, Justice Sen said: ``He (Mr. Sondhi) was appointed by the Government because of his being a political personality and cannot be heard to complain when the political winds blow him away''.

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