The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the Delhi Government and the Centre on a plea challenging the vires of the Civil Defence Act, 1968, with regards to its empowering the Controller of Civil Defence to dismiss any member from the Civil Defence Corps, without assigning any reason.
The Division Bench, led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and comprising Justice Jyoti Singh. was hearing the plea filed by a member of the Civil Defence Corps, alleging that he was discharged from the membership of the organisation without assigning any reasons.
Advocate Satyakam, representing the Delhi Government, argued that the instant petition is not maintainable as the Corps is not a service of the government, and the members of the Corps are rendering voluntary services. In addition, he submitted that the members of the organisation are paid an allowance by the Government as a mere token of encouragement and not as an honorarium. The Bench issued notice in the matter and slated it for November 29.
The petition was been filed by one Farukh Khan through Advocates Rajiv Agarwal, Meghna De, L. Gangmei and N. Bhushan, challenging Sections 6(2) and 14(1) of the Civil Defence Act, 1968.
Section 6(2) empowers the Controller of Civil Defence to summarily dismiss any member from the corps without assigning any reason, if he is of the opinion that the continued presence of such member is undesirable.
Section 14(1) states that no order made in exercise of any power conferred by or under the Act shall be called in question in any court.
Khan joined as a member of Civil Defence Corps in 2014 and completed various training courses during his tenure as a member of the Corps, an organisation under the control of Delhi Government that provides protection to any person, property and place in India from any hostile attack. The plea alleged that on March 23, 2020, he was abruptly discharged from the membership of the Corps by the Deputy Controller of Civil Defence Corps, while he was serving on call-out duty in a Covid-19 Centre at Delhi’s Sultanpuri.
It further alleged that no reason was disclosed for such abrupt discharge. However, after repeated requests, he was orally told that the discharge is on the pretext of an FIR lodged against one non-government organization named Jai Santoshi Maa Educational Social Welfare Association (JSM), of which Khan is the Secretary. It is contended that the FIR was registered against NGO officials for opening their office during lockdown for distributing masks, and that Khan was neither present at the place of incidence nor has he been named in the said FIR.
The plea highlights that an appeal was preferred under the Civil Defence Act challenging the order of discharge. When no decision was being taken on the appeal, a representation was made before the Director of Civil Defence in June 2020.
The plea further highlighted that on October 28, 2020, an order was issued by the Director of Civil Defence, rejecting the appeal of the petitioner preferred in June, 2020. “No reason for rejection of the appeal was disclosed in order dated October 28, 2020. No opportunity of being heard was afforded to the petitioner,” the plea claimed.
Alleging that the discharge order was contrary to the principle of natural justice, the plea read, “The petitioner was wrongly deprived of his source of livelihood as well as lost the opportunity to serve the community at large and utilise his hard-earned skills during the pandemic.”