Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Thursday quashed a chargesheet by the Haryana government against beleaguered whistleblower Sanjiv Chaturvedi, setting a precedent of sorts.
This is the fifth time in the last six years that the UPA government has intervened to prevent “harassment” of the Indian Forest Service officer by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s Congress government. The Centre has never before had to intervene repeatedly to save one officer. Mr. Chaturvedi has been at the receiving end after he unearthed several scams involving several State politicians and senior ranking officials.
Mr. Chaturvedi incurred the State government’s wrath in 1999 after he uncovered a multi-crore scam in the forestry programme in Jhajjar, then the constituency of the Chief Minister’s son Dipender Hooda. The expose led to the prosecution of over two dozen State officials. But Mr. Chaturvedi was transferred, suspended and charge sheeted on various charges. A Central government inquiry ensued on the officer’s complaint. The Centre, the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission recommended protection to the officer against harassment and an investigation by a Central agency. The probe indicted several officers and politicians.
By 2012, the Centre had stepped in on four occasions to rescue the officer. First his suspension was cancelled. Then his charge sheet was quashed. The third time, the Centre brought him on deputation to Delhi and the fourth time it ordered a CBI inquiry against a few State officials.
But once the officer was posted in Delhi in 2012, the State government filed a fresh charge sheet against him, this time indicting him in the very scam he had blown the lid off. This was done ostensibly to force the Centre to send the officer back to his parent cadre.
Mr. Chaturvedi yet again pleaded before the Environment Ministry. Ms. Natarajan has not only quashed the charge sheet, but also cancelled through a Presidential order an inquiry instituted by the State. Ms. Natarajan in the process used a rarely deployed power of the Centre under the All-India Service rules to act against a State government.