Ministry went out of its way to prevent Centre from rescuing IFS officer fighting graft in Haryana

The UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi recently asked the government to come to the aid of All India Services officers who are harassed for doing their duty in the States. But here is a case where the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) led by Minister in-Charge V. Narayanasamy did just the opposite. The ministry went out of its way to prevent the Union government from rescuing Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer fighting corruption in Congress-ruled Haryana and facing the wrath of the State government for it.

The officer has been in the news for some years now for unearthing multi-crore forestry scams in two districts, preventing the destruction of a wildlife sanctuary in Haryana and getting hounded by the State government with repeated transfers, charge-sheets and suspension for his actions. A host of politicians and senior bureaucrats have been indicted for the scams and harassing the officer by an inquiry set up by the Union Environment Ministry. Those under a cloud include two political appointees in Chief Minister B. S. Hooda’s office, one minister, one independent MLA, six senior Indian Forest Service officers and two senior IAS officers then posted in Haryana.

Documents with The Hindu show the Minister of State Mr. Narayanasamy and his department stepping in to further harass Mr. Chaturvedi, instead of coming to his rescue. For doing so, the DoPT circumvented and misinterpreted rules, side-stepped commitments made in court, contradicted its own orders as well as the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission and the CBI and took on two Union ministers, Mr. Jairam Ramesh and Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan. It also refused to explain its actions to the Prime Minister’s Office for more than a year on the issue despite repeated reminders.

The Hindu sent detailed questions to Mr. Narayanasamy. The DoPT responded to them and has defended all the decisions. But it is yet to take a ‘final view’ and therefore has not responded to queries from the PMO on the controversy for more than a year.

In August 2010, triggered by complaints that Mr. Chaturvedi made to the Cabinet Secretary and the President, the Union Environment Ministry set up the two-member committee that indicted a host of senior Haryana bureaucrats and politicians and recommended a CBI inquiry. Based on the report, the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh quashed the false charge sheets foisted by the State government on the officer. The State accepted the quashing of charges against Mr. Chaturvedi under protest. This was in January 2011.

The Environment Ministry referred the matter of CBI investigations to the CVC and the CBI. Both concurred that it was a legitimate case to be handed over to the Central agency and that the officer should be provided protection from the State authorities.

The CVC and the CBI’s views were reported in the media turning Mr. Chaturvedi’s case into a hot potato for the Haryana government which faced heat in the assembly from the opposition. The DoPT and its minister entered the scene in a way that helped the beleaguered Haryana government more than the aggrieved officer.

Just when the environment ministry was preparing to ask the Haryana government to order the CBI investigation, the DoPT stepped in to counter the move.

Under specific instructions and orders of V. Narayanasamy, the DoPT told the PMO in a confidential note that the report and subsequent actions of the environment ministry were completely illegal and that the Centre could not intervene in the case of an All India Service officer if one was working in a State.

Under specific instructions and orders of V. Narayanasamy, the DoPT told the PMO in a confidential note that the report and subsequent actions of the environment ministry were completely illegal and that the Centre could not intervene in the case of an All India Service officer if one was working in a State. The DOPT told the PMO that the Centre was only supposed to make policy regarding these officers and Mr. Chaturvedi should have complained to the State government.

Then starting February 2012, a series of fast-paced, apparently coincidental but a rather telling sequence of events took place. A senior Haryana cadre IFS officer who had been indicted by the two-member committee for harassing Mr. Chaturvedi got whiff of the ‘confidential note’ and within ten days had got it out through the RTI Act. The environment ministry, clueless about this, wrote to Haryana to order the CBI investigations. But by then the ‘confidential note’ sent from the DOPT to the PMO had landed in the hands of the Haryana government despite the fact that the DOPT had not officially marked it a copy. Within days the Haryana government tabled the note as its defence before the State Assembly as well as the Union environment ministry which was caught off guard.

The DOPT’s ‘confidential’ opinion was contrary to law and regulations. The All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1969 not only permit Mr. Chaturvedi to ask directly for Central intervention, it give the power to the Centre to act suo motu and even overrule the State government to provide redress to the aggrieved officer serving in the State through review or revision of any orders of the State government.

In fact, there is evidence with The Hindu that the DOPT, the home ministry and the environment ministry have previously used the All India Service rules earlier to alter or expunge adverse comments against IAS, IPS and IFS officers.

But the DOPT’s confidential note brought the issue of letting the CBI investigate the matter to a stalemate pitting the DOPT against the environment ministry and providing Haryana an easy way out.

Though the CBI issue was not going anywhere now, with at least the charge sheet against him quashed, the environment ministry decided to bring him to Delhi on central deputation considering CVC’s advice to give the officer protection. The DOPT agreed with the move but with the State unrelenting, Mr. Chaturvedi landed up pleading before the Central Administrative Tribunal. There finally all the three — Haryana, DOPT and the environment ministry — agreed to get let him out of Haryana to Delhi. It was now July 2013.

But this was not the end of it for Mr. Chaturvedi. Just one month after the officer had taken up his post in the AIIMS, the Haryana forest minister Captain Ajay Singh Yadav wrote to Mr. Narayanasamy and complained that the officer had been granted undue favour by the environment ministry (even earlier the State government had officially accused the environment ministry officials of conniving with him against the State government) and caused embarrassment to the Haryana government. He turned it into an issue of Centre-State relations and sought Mr. Narayanasamy’s personal intervention. The DOPT minister obliged immediately. Ignoring the fact that his department had cleared the deputation along with the Haryana government and sworn as much before CAT, he wrote to Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan asking her to sort out Captain Yadav’s complaint in the matter in consultation with his ministry.

Ms. Natarajan shot back a rather livid reply. She noted that it was the Haryana government which had forwarded the request for Mr. Chaturvedi’s deputation. She said, “I do not understand why you have forwarded this query from the Haryana forest minister to me. As a matter of fact, when my ministry received the request from Mr. Chaturvedi, we took a very long time to study it, fully mindful of the delicate issues of Centre state relations.” She added, “However, after receiving explicit request from you advising my ministry to relieve the officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, to enable him to join duty, my ministry had no option but to relieve him as officially requested by DOPT.”

“I have failed to understand the request in your letter to take further action as the action was taken by you,” she added rebuffing Mr. Narayanasamy’s carefully worded letter pushing Captain Yadav’s case against Mr. Chaturvedi’s deputation.

She also wrote to Captain Yadav asking him to collect the correct facts and to ascertain the factual position in future before making remarks against ‘any minister or ministry’.

As the matter stands today, on August 22, 2013 the Haryana cadre officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi has landed up in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI scrutiny into the scams he alleged he had unearthed for which he was harassed by the State government. He has said that the CBI and the CVC and the environment ministry too sought fit to recommend a Central investigation into the scams but the DOPT and Mr. Narayanasamy found no merit in that recommendation. Here again Haryana has taken shelter behind Mr. Narayanasamy’s confidential opinion.

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