Delhi High Court dismisses PIL seeking a direction to conduct a “Special Audit” of all the financial affairs of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and Guru Harkrishan Public School (New Delhi) Society

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a PIL filed by the petitioners seeking i) declaration of the provisions of Section 29 of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1971 (DSG Act) as unconstitutional ii) a direction to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (Committee) and Guru Harkrishan Public School (New Delhi) Society (GHPS) to ensure conducting the yearly audit of the entire financial accounts of the Committee and GHPS Society through Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG); iii) a direction to the same Committee and GHPS Society to act in adherence to Section 29 and Section 30 of the DSG Act; iv) direction to the CAG to conduct the “Special Audit” of the Committee and GHPS Society, amongst other reliefs. A Division Bench of Manmohan and Saurabh Banerjee, JJ., held that the present PIL is neither maintainable in law nor on facts as the petitioners are unable to make out any case for grant of the reliefs as prayed.

The Court noted that the present PIL is involving the issues arising out of a Statute, the DSG Act, enacted with a view “to provide for the proper management of the Sikh Gurdwaras and Gurdwara property in Delhi and for matters connected therewith” and the petitioners, prior to filing of the present PIL, by way of an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 had ascertained that there was a mis-management and illegal abstraction of the public funds due to connivance and conspiracy of the entire officials of the Committee and the GHPS Society.

The issue for consideration is qua the maintainability of the present PIL in the wake of the already existing DSG Act.

The Court further noted that both Committee and the GHPS Society are formed and governed by the DSG Act and are organizations constituted by voluntary contribution and donation from the public with no allocation from the Consolidated Fund of India i.e., they are neither a part of nor belonging to nor controlled by the Government of India. The C&AG can carry out the audit of accounts of certain authorities or bodies after following due process of law provided in Section 20 of The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971. The duties of the CAG are derived from Article 148 and Article 149 of The Constitution of India. Thus, this Court cannot direct CAG to conduct a “Special Audit” of all the financial affairs of the Committee and the GHPS Society.

The Court further stated that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi (Administrator) and Directorate of Gurdwara Elections Government of NCT of Delhi are to conduct an inquiry into the allegations of financial irregularities, if any, under Rule 15A of The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (Election of Pro-Tempore Chairman, President, other Office Bearers and Members of the Executive Board) Rules 1974, wherein the procedure is clearly stipulated.

The Court concluded that no party could choose an alternative forum of convenience for agitating grievance(s) when a specific remedy is provided under the DSG Act. Thus, in view of Section 32(c) of the DSG Act, the petitioners are estopped from raising any grievances by way of the present PIL before us as they are amenable only to the jurisdiction of the District Court.

The Court held that the present PIL cannot be entertained on two counts, firstly, as there is already an applicable law, the DSG Act with the complete methodology and mechanism for carrying out an audit by Chartered Accountants after due nomination by the Committee selected under the said DSG Act in place and secondly, as there is already existing law, the CAG Act, wherein the CAG cannot voluntarily carry out an audit on its own save and except as provided in the CAG Act.

[Bhupinder Singh v. Lt. Governor of Delhi, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 962, decided on 20-02-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Anunaya Mehta, Advocate for petitioner

Mr. Gautam Narayan, ASC with Ms. Asmita Singh, Unmukt Gera and Mr. Harshit Goel, Advocates for R-1. Mr. Anil Soni, CGSC with Mr. Devrat Yadav, Advocate for R-3. Mr. Harish Malhotra, Ms.Avneet Kaur and Mr. Gaurav Kumar Pandey, Advocates for R-4 & 5. Mr. Rajesh Ranjan, Mr. Aman Kapoor and Mr. Ashutosh Agarwal, Advocates for R-6.

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