The Lieutenant Governor’s office had “raked up” the issue of irregular appointments in Delhi’s women’s panel to sidetrack the payment of salaries to people hired to work on various women’s helplines, DCW chief Swati Maliwal has alleged in the Delhi High Court.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chairperson has contended that people were engaged on short-term contracts for three months to ensure that its various helplines, programmes and cells for women in distress continue to function till the Delhi government sanctions staff for the purpose.
The DCW made the submission in a counter affidavit supporting the plea of 97 workers employed by it, who have moved the high court seeking payment of salaries from September 2016 onwards.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, who is hearing the matter, had in December last year directed DCW to disburse 50 per cent arrears of salary to 62 workers. On January 18, the relief was extended to 35 others who had moved the court subsequently.
The court had also directed the Commission to provide records of the staff appointed by it without approval of the LG after the LG’s office contended that the records were not accessible.
Terming the contention as “completely false”, DCW has claimed that all records pertaining to these appointments were provided to the LG’s office in October 2016 and were returned to it only in January 2017.
The DCW chief’s reaction came after the LG office in an affidavit claimed that Maliwal had “no power or authority to arbitrarily, unilaterally, unauthorisedly engage or appoint employees” in DCW and should have approached the competent authority if more manpower was needed.
In the affidavit, the DCW chief has contended that the present plea was a result of “gross failure” of its Member Secretary, appointed by the LG, to comply with its repeated directions to disburse salaries to the workers.
The Member Secretary had refused to disburse the salaries on the ground that prior approval of the LG and Department of Women and Child Development of Delhi government were required.
Maliwal has contended that under the DCW Act, the Commission had the power to approve and sanction expenditure incurred and likely to be incurred during a financial year and no prior approval of any authority was required.
The power to sanction salaries was only delegated to the Member Secretary whose “omission” to pay salaries to the petitioner workers was “patently illegal and clearly malafide” and had created a crisis in the DCW, she claimed.
Maliwal has also said that the government was only required to pay grant-in-aid to DCW which in turn would decide how to spend it “as it thinks fit” for the purposes under the Act and approval from Administrative, Planning or Finance Department if the Commission’s activities result in additional financial liability for the government.
She has contended that in the instant case, there would be no additional financial liability on the government as Rs three crore, out of the Rs seven crore grant-in-aid, was lying unutilised and could be used to pay the salaries of its workers till the end of this financial year.
With regard to the complaint filed against her in the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi government, Maliwal has contended that it was filed by the previous DCW Chairperson for “political and collateral reasons” and “out of malice”.
The LG’s office had earlier told the high court that ACB was probing alleged irregularities in the recruitment process of the DCW on orders of a trial court.
Maliwal, in her affidavit, has also alleged that the government was displaying a “lackadaisical attitude” towards staffing of the Commission as its detailed proposal for more manpower sent in September 2016 was returned in January 2017 on the ground that it was not in the proper format.
The court on January 24 had asked the LG’s office to clearly state whether the rape crisis and other cells, run on court orders by DCW, should be shut down over alleged illegal appointment of staff by the women’s panel.
It had also asked the LG’s office to make its stand clear on whether all appointments made by the DCW were illegal or only some of them.
The court had also sought clarification on whether the LG’s office intended to make fresh appointments to run these cells.
The matter was listed for hearing on February 8, but as the judge was not available on that date, the matter was listed on February 28 when the LG’s office is likely to communicate its stand to the court.