A senior Haryana officer, who took on the state government over its choice of information commissioners, has accused the state’s top officer of threatening him.
IAS officer Pradeep Kasni, who is the Haryana administrative reforms secretary and has acquired a celebrity status by red-flagging the appointments, said chief secretary SC Choudhry sent him objectionable SMSes for questioning the decision.
The appointments have generated a lot of heat as the “beneficiaries” are considered close to chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is battling dissent within his government and has come under fire for alleged corruption in the state that goes to polls later this year. The government says Kasni’s objections are not based on facts.
Admitting that he had sent the messages, Choudhary said Tuesday it was done in jest and claimed “these were jokes” between “friends”.
Describing the messages as nerve-racking, Kasni had demanded an apology. One of the messages sent by Choudhary on Sunday read, “Good night. Please enjoy your new status of being a celebrity... But agar apni maa ka doodh piya hai to mere saare msg press ko dikha dena ( I dare you to show my messages to press).”
Choudhary sent another text to Kasni on Tuesday, saying he regretted his words. “We were and remain friends,” said Choudhary, who has been named the chairman of the Right to Service Commission that is tasked with ensuring timely delivery of public services such as ration cards, licences etc. Kasni has also questioned Choudhary’s appointment who retires in a few days.
The 1997-batch IAS officer’s actions have invited comparison to Ashok Khemka, another senior officer of the state who cancelled a land deal involving Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.
Hooda had on Sunday administered oath of office to two information commissioners and three right to service commissioners in a ceremony that was reportedly organised in a hurry. The opposition says the appointments are “unconstitutional”.
Kasni said for him the larger issue was that officers should not be lured by post-retirement benefits as it threatened the whole system. One of the information commissioners is a retired IAS officer and another is the wife of CM’s political adviser. Kasni as the secretary, administrative reforms, deals with the matters pertaining to the two panels.
“I had raised some points that included search committee not doing its job. There is pressure on officers to do wrong things. But, it is our duty to stand up and do the right thing,” the soft-spoken Kasni said.
Khemka tweeted his support. “Lure for post-retirement sinecures harming institutions. New agencies are created to dangle crumbs before pliable bureaucrats and judges.”