Rajnish Rai, Gujarat cadre 1992-batch IPS officer, who had probed the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter, was charge-sheeted by the Union Home Ministry but got a reprieve from a Hyderabad bench of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on Monday which stayed the inquiry against him for probing alleged “misconduct by CMD and functional director, Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), Jaduguda, in Jharkhand without permission.”
Rai is currently on central deputation in Chittoor with the CRPF. During his stint as Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) in 2015 with UCIL, Rai is reported to have unearthed large scale corruption, allegedly running into crores. Rai is known for arresting about a dozen police officers including ex-IPS officer D G Vanzara among others in 2007 during Sohrabuddin encounter probe. He was then posted in Gujarat CID (crime). Vanzara and scores of other Gujarat police officers were released in 2016-17.
In 2014, Rai was transferred to Jaduguda as CVO on Central deputation. After a legal battle in 2015, the Central government transferred him to Shillong as IG, North Sector,Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). In June this year, Rai was transferred to Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh at the Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) School of the CRPF.
Before he was shunted to Chittoor, Rai, as The Indian Express had first reported, had alleged that two operatives of NDFB(S) in Chirang, Assam, were killed in a fake encounter by Army, Assam Police, Sashastra Seema Bal and CRPF in Chirang district of Assam on March 30 this year. Later, the Home Ministry set up a probe panel headed by retired DG Ashok Prasad to probe the allegations. The panel is yet to finalise its report.
As CVO, Rai is said to have submitted his findings from UCIL to CBI, Ranchi, for which he was chargesheeted in August this year by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). When contacted by The Indian Express, Rai declined to comment saying the matter was in court.
According to the Home Ministry, Rai was chargesheeted for holding the inquiry “without due approval of the competent authority and submitted his investigation reports directly to CBI, Ranchi without consulting CVC/DAE in violation of CVC guidelines…”
The chargesheet says that Rai investigated into allegations of “irregularities and corruption in award of work,” and recruitment of a management trainee. The chargesheet alleges that Rai proceeded on tour “despite denial of approval of competent authority i.e. CMD, UCIL,” and that after the tour, he failed to submit his inspection report ignoring CVC guidelines.
The other charge relates to taking away confidential papers while relinquishing of charge as CVO. He moved before the CAT challenging the chargesheet where he alleged that the “chargesheet (was) merely to obstruct his promotion.”
Rai is scheduled for promotion. His two batchmates S G Bhati and K L N Rao in Gujarat were promoted to additional Director General of Police last week.
The Hyderabad bench, while staying the inquiry, posted the hearing to November 15. The order states, “Having gone through the submissions on either side, it is seen that the charges relate to investigation conducted by the applicant without approval of the competent authority way back in the year 2015 as well as other trivial matters.”
Counsel for the Union Government objected to the CAT passing any interim order, saying: “The applicant did not even offer his explanation for the charge memo.” The bench noted that “taking into consideration the fact that the juniors of the applicant have been promoted and also keeping in view the fact that the charges do not relate to the integrity of the applicant, we direct that there shall be stay of enquiry for a period of six weeks.”
Home Ministry officials said the action against Rai was initiated following a complaint from Department of Atomic Energy where Rai was on deputation. He has been charged under various counts under All India Services Rules primary among them was flouting CVC guidelines during his role as CVO.
Before the chargesheet, Rajnish Rai’s report on Uranium Corp
In his application before the CAT, Rai states his probe found corruption in awarding “work of removal of overburden/waste and extraction of uranium ore at Banduhurang opencast mine” through a public tender.
The report that led to the home ministry chargesheeting Rajnish Rai, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, was about alleged corruption in awarding tenders and alleged lack of adherence to safety norms in the Uranium Corporation of India Limited, where he was Central Vigilance Officer on deputation in 2014-15. The chargesheet was on the ground that Rai had acted “without due approval from the competent authority”; the Hyderabad bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal stayed the investigation against Rai Monday.
In his application before the CAT, Rai states his probe found corruption in awarding “work of removal of overburden/waste and extraction of uranium ore at Banduhurang opencast mine” through a public tender. He alleged an Ahmedabad-based engineering firm was awarded this work despite bidding higher than a Delhi-based firm that quoted Rs 46 crore less. His report, annexed with the application, opined that an FIR could be lodged against the Ahmedabad firm and UCIL officials for conspiracy and corruption.
Rai also probed “the matter relating to radioactive pollution caused by UCIL and misappropriation of funds at UCIL while decommissioning two uranium recovery plants [Mosabani and Rakha] in the early 2000s”. His report alleged the decommissioning was done without approval from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and without adequate safeguards, and added that “a questionable decision has now been taken to commission a new URP at Mosabani at the cost of Rs 50 crore at the same site where the earlier plant existed and was decommissioned”.
His report questioned the AERB’s role, alleging it attempted “to cover up the illegal acts of UCIL and its reluctance to enforce its legal mandate and pursue the issue to its logical conclusion emboldened UCIL to violate the law with impunity…”
Rai recommended a probe by a special investigation team of police officers and experts. He recommended that a study of potential damage to locals “on account of radiation hazards during the decommissioning and its aftermath be also undertaken and, if need be, the victims be compensated/rehabilitated…”
His probe mentioned several UCIL officers who allegedly misused their position for financial gains. He wrote that while he was probing their roles, he was transferred. According to his application before the CAT, he sought the status of his report through RTI which stated that nothing has been done yet.
Rai also investigated and found “several procedural and management failures in the implementation of the Tumallapalle Project” in Andhra Pradesh which resulted in a loss of over Rs 970 crore. His report noted “gaps in conceptualisation of the project and and financial and procedural irregularities committed in the implementation of the project”. He recommended a performance audit report to be carried out by “CAG to independently, objectively and reliably examine whether Tummalapalle Project is being executed and/or functioning in accordance with the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness”.
He recommended a criminal case against officials of UCIL, Jaduguda, and a Nagpur-based firm that was allowed to “claim higher escalation for wages and materials, thereby causing a wrongful loss of Rs 117,61,35,449 and corresponding wrongful gain to M/s SMS Infrastructure, Nagpur, during the period August 2008 to January 2015.”
source- Indian Express