As a minister “falls ill” prior to an officer’s oath, Delhi Lt. Governor calls the situation “bizarre.”
In a recent development, Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena has advised Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to conduct the oath-taking ceremony of Justice (retd) Umesh Kumar, the chairperson-designate of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), through video conferencing. The event was postponed due to the illness of Power Minister Atishi. In a letter addressed to Mr Kejriwal, Mr Saxena emphasised the need to adapt to the digital age and ensure the implementation of the President of India’s notification issued on June 21, 2023.
Highlighting the time constraint, the Lieutenant Governor stated that Justice Umesh Kumar would only be available until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, urging prompt action to administer the oath. Several options were proposed to carry out the ceremony via video conferencing. These included having the power minister conduct the event through a video conference or a video call on a mobile device, delegating the responsibility to the Chief Minister or any of his ministers, or assigning the task to the chief secretary.
It is worth noting that the appointment of Mr Kumar as the chairman of DERC on June 21 is currently being challenged by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the Supreme Court, adding further complexity to the situation. The AAP government has not yet responded to the Lieutenant Governor’s advice on conducting the oath-taking ceremony through video conferencing.
The proposed use of video conferencing for the oath-taking ceremony reflects the growing reliance on technology to overcome logistical challenges and ensure the smooth functioning of official procedures, especially during times of limited physical interaction. Video conferencing has gained prominence as a valuable tool for conducting remote meetings and events in today’s digital age. It allows participants to connect virtually, eliminating the need for physical presence and enabling seamless communication.
By suggesting video conferencing as a viable alternative, the Lieutenant Governor highlights the importance of embracing digital solutions for efficient governance. The unavailability of the Power Minister due to illness should not hinder the implementation of the President’s notification, and the Lieutenant Governor expresses surprise at such a situation occurring in the modern era.
The ongoing legal challenge by the AAP government adds another layer of complexity to the issue. The Supreme Court’s involvement will likely influence the final decision regarding Mr Kumar’s appointment. However, irrespective of the legal proceedings, the Lieutenant Governor emphasises the need to administer the oath promptly, given the time constraints.
The AAP government’s response to the Lieutenant Governor’s proposal remains unknown. The decision they make regarding the method of administering the oath to Mr Kumar will shape the outcome of the ceremony. Whether they choose to adopt video conferencing or explore alternative options, the ultimate aim should be to uphold the integrity of the appointment process and ensure the smooth functioning of the DERC.
As this situation unfolds, it underscores the significance of leveraging technology to adapt to changing circumstances. Video conferencing has become an indispensable tool for remote communication, offering flexibility and convenience in conducting official affairs. Its application in the oath-taking ceremony of Justice Umesh Kumar could set a precedent for future events, demonstrating the potential of technology to overcome logistical challenges effectively.
In conclusion, the advice from Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal regarding the oath-taking ceremony of DERC chairperson-designate Justice (retd) Umesh Kumar emphasises the need for video conferencing as a viable option. The time constraints, coupled with the ongoing legal challenge, present challenges that necessitate prompt action. By embracing digital solutions and leveraging technology, the authorities can ensure the smooth execution of official procedures, fostering efficient governance in today’s digital age.
The appointment of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) chairman has become a new point of contention between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor’s office, adding to the existing dispute over the Centre’s ordinance on control of services. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also challenged the ordinance in the Supreme Court.
According to officials at Raj Niwas (the lieutenant governor’s office), Power Minister Atishi wrote to the chairman-designate, Justice (retd) Umesh Kumar, requesting his availability to take the oath in her presence. The chairman-designate confirmed his availability accordingly. However, the event was later postponed after Atishi fell ill, as stated by officials.
In a statement, the Delhi government explained that Power Minister Atishi had fallen ill, causing a sudden health issue that led to the postponement of her meetings and official engagements, including the oath-taking ceremony for the DERC chairperson. The government further announced that the rescheduled oath-taking ceremony would take place on the upcoming Thursday.
In a letter to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the lieutenant governor expressed surprise and concern over the delayed oath-taking ceremony for Justice Umesh Kumar. The lieutenant governor highlighted the fact that Justice Kumar had made himself available for the ceremony since June 25, 2023, yet had been kept in limbo. He had arrived in Delhi earlier, on the same day as the scheduled ceremony, expecting to take the oath.
The lieutenant governor had previously written to Mr Kejriwal on June 27, raising concerns about the unnecessary delay in administering the oath of office to the former judge. In response, Mr Kejriwal forwarded the letter to Power Minister Atishi, instructing her to conduct the oath-taking ceremony as soon as possible.
In her communication with Justice Kumar, Atishi attributed the confusion and delay to the Power Department, criticising their unprofessional behaviour. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the situation and directed the Power Department to take disciplinary action against the responsible officer. Atishi proposed holding the oath-taking ceremony in her office on either July 3 (Monday) at 6 p.m. or in the second half of the day on July 4 (Tuesday).
Initially, the AAP government had recommended the name of former Madhya Pradesh High Court judge Justice (retd.) R K Srivastava for the position of DERC chairman. However, Justice Srivastava declined the appointment due to family commitments and requirements. Subsequently, on June 21, the government put forward the name of Justice (retd.) Sangeet Raj Lodha from the Rajasthan High Court. However, the Central government notified the court of the appointment of Justice Umesh Kumar on the same evening. The AAP government criticised the appointment as “patently unconstitutional.”
As the situation unfolds, the appointment of the DERC chairman continues to be a source of disagreement between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor’s office. The rescheduling of the oath-taking ceremony and the allegations of delay and unprofessional conduct highlights the need for better coordination and efficient governance in such matters. The AAP government’s legal challenge against the Centre’s ordinance further adds complexity to the situation, raising questions about the outcome and the constitutional implications of the appointment process.