Top forest official asks State to challenge MoEF report

The Congress government in Haryana is contemplating taking the Centre to court for recommending CBI investigation against officials and politicians named in an Environment Ministry inquiry report on forestry scams highlighted by whistleblower-IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi.

The Hindu has accessed an advisory from Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) C. R. Jotriwal recommending that the Haryana government immediately move the High Court to counter the Supreme Court proceedings initiated against State officials including those in the Chief Minister’s office. He noted that the Union government had supported petitioner Chaturvedi’s plea for a CBI probe, and so it was in the state government’s interest to immediately file a writ petition challenging the original inquiry into the matter conducted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 2010.

The MoEF inquiry had indicted several officials and politicians in the multicrore Jhajhar and Hissar forestry scams; building of a herbal park on private land in Fatehabad and destruction of the Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary. The report made scathing comments against the State government for fabricating documents and harassing the whistleblower. The CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission concurred with the report and recommended central investigation, considering that higher-ups in the State were involved.

The Department of Personnel and Training, however, termed the MoEF report ultra vires and the State government went by the DoPT opinion to deny registration of a case with the CBI, leading to Mr. Chaturvedi filing a petition in the Supreme Court. The Law Ministry did support the DoPT views.

Jotriwal refuses comment

When contacted, Mr. Jotriwal refused to comment on the issue and said he was not aware of any advisory from his office.

His office note recommending that the State government file a petition against the Union government reads: “Sanjiv Chaturvedi, IFS has filed a writ petition (Criminal) No 148 of 2012 in the Hon’ble Supreme Court praying that a CBI inquiry be conducted in the matter as has been recommended by the Enquiry Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. In this petition, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has been impleaded as respondent By Sh Sanjeev Chaturvedi, and they have filed reply/counter supporting the prayer of the petitioner that CBI inquiry be held in the matter (copy enclosed).”

Mr. Jotriwal then advised it: “Keeping into the view the interest of the State government immediately write [sic] petition be filed in the High Court challenging the report dated 08.12.2010 of ministry of environment and forests, Union of India.”

The PCCF quoted elaborately from the Ministry’s enquiry report containing “uncalled-for/adverse” remarks against decisions taken by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s office. He warned that the report was being “used to the disadvantage of the State and had not been legally challenged till date.”

The advice was sent within a week of the last hearing in the Supreme Court, where lawyers representing the Centre supported the whistleblower’s plea for a CBI inquiry.

The CBI dithered on filing its views before the Supreme Court for more than a year now in the ongoing case but the Union government has come out again in support of an investigation by the agency.

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