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PM-headed panel flouts rules to shift more than a dozen officers

PM-headed panel flouts rules to shift more than a dozen officers
Govt puts whistle-blower AIIMS CVO Sanjiv Chaturvedi’s case in cold storage
Nitin Sethi | New Delhi April 1, 2015

Of the 29 All India Service Officers whose temporary change of cadre, called inter-state deputation, has been approved by the Prime Minister-headed of the Cabinet (ACC), 14 are in violation of the laid policy.

But in the case of Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the former CVO (chief vigilance officer) of the AIIMS (All India Institute Of Medical Science), the ACC has put his request to change his cadre in a state of limbo. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has also kept pending a decision on the Delhi government’s demand for deputing Chaturvedi as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s officer on special duty, for more than a month.

Chaturvedi has filed a case against the Cabinet secretariat, the department of personnel and training (which works as the node for the ACC) and the environment ministry before the Central Administrative Tribunal, asking the PM-headed body take a final call on his long-pending plea for change of cadre on the basis of the existing policy and not pass the buck to the states concerned, which effectively takes the proposal back to preliminary stages.

Chaturvedi had pleaded for a change of cadre from Haryana to Uttarakhand after he was harassed by the then Congress government in Haryana for blowing the lid off several scams. Four rare Presidential orders were passed by the Union government (then United Progressive Alliance) to protect him against the state’s illegal decisions harassing him, a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry was recommended and the Central Vigilance Commission advised that he continued to face a threat. Consequently, the UPA government rescued him temporarily by bringing him to Delhi on deputation as the CVO of AIIMS.

But in 2014, he was removed from the post of CVO by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government after he exposed four dozen cases of corruption, some involving senior officials. Then Bharatiya Janata Party senior functionary (and current Health Minister) J P Nadda personally advocated his removal and a halt to all anti-corruption investigations. Harsh Vardhan, then health minister, approved the removal within 24 hours, overturning all earlier ministry decisions. Nadda, as health minister, also acts as the president of AIIMS and takes the final call on all anti-graft investigations.

The NDA government has defended itself before the CAT and said instead of deciding upon Chaturvedi’s cadre change plea, pending before the government for more than six months, the ACC has asked the states concerned, Haryana and Uttarakhand, to yet again give their mandatory clearances for an inter-state deputation. The two state governments have already given the nod for a permanent change of Chaturvedi’s cadre.

A cadre deputation is a short-term measure where the officer’s home state is shifted temporarily but a cadre change is a permanent one for an officer. The officer is permitted to change cadres by the Centre in concurrence with two state governments concerned only on grounds of extreme hardship or marriage. The final call lies with the central government.

On the other hand, Javadekar, who has been sitting on the file for Chaturvedi’s deputation to Delhi government, refused to speak on the matter at a media gathering, saying, “We don’t give running commentary on the movement of a file.” Records reviewed by Business Standard show the file has been pending with the minister’s office for nearly a month, even after he publicly said he would quickly dispose the case, which he received in mid-February. The Union government has transferred at least three other officers meanwhile to the Delhi government. The latter has sent a reminder, which has not been replied to.

In the cadre change matter, the NDA government has defended its decision in the CAT, saying the ACC decided to ask for their consent yet again because the political parties in power in the two states had changed. The government policy requires such consents before the ACC considers the proposal and the two governments had already given their no-objection certificates. The ACC is required to take the final call once these and other formalities have been met. Also, the party in power in Uttarakhand has not changed and a change of the political dispensation does not automatically mean a change of a government’s decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Contradicting its decision for Chaturvedi, in another case, the ACC has permitted an inter-state cadre deputation without seeking the relevant state’s consent yet again. That officer’s original consent from the Haryana government too had come when the Congress was in power in Haryana, as in Chaturvedi’s case. In the case where ACC permitted the cadre change, it did so flouting other provisions of the policy which do not permit officers with less than nine years of service to be sent to another state on deputation.

There are 13 other cases where the ACC flouted the policy for change of cadre. In some cases, the orders passed mention that “guidelines were relaxed” for various reasons. In some cases, the written orders do not even mention so. The policy does not provide for relaxation of rules. It permits a change of cadre to officers with a certain years’ experience to be ask for change of parent state only if Business Standard reviewed the ACC’s decisions of cadre change available on the department of personnel and training website, the existing policy for cadre change and inter-cadre deputation. The paper also reviewed the decision of the ACC and the affidavit filed by the government before the administrative tribunal.

In a unique case, an officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre was deputed to Rajasthan for as long as the current governor of Rajasthan — BJP leader from UP, Kalyan Singh — continues to be in office. The officer is now serving as the officer on special duty to Singh. The regulations do not provide such a tenure for officers that change cadre.

Whistle-blower Sanjiv Chaturvedi asks Union government for change of cadre from Haryana to Uttarakhand claiming he is facing extreme hardship
Two state governments and parent environment ministry approve it as required under policy
Chaturvedi removed as AIIMS CVO by minister Harsh Vardhan, after J P Nadda’s demand to stop all his anti-graft probes
After more than six months, PM-led Appointments Committee says Haryana and Uttarakhand should give consent again, taking the process back to square one
In parallel, Delhi government demands Chaturvedi be shifted to Arvind Kejriwal’s team as officer on special duty
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar says he will act promptly but sits on the file for more than a month
Chaturvedi files case against NDA government before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)
All ministries collectively defend their decision before CAT

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