In violation of the Panchayati Raj Act, the Punjab government has appointed a junior officer as the appellant authority of another bureaucrat and no one seems to want to undo the anomaly.
Punjab’s 2006-batch IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer Gurdev Singh Ghumman, who is joint development commissioner in the department of rural development and panchayats, has been granted the powers to hear appeals against the orders of department director Siban C, a 2005-batch IAS officer.
Ghumman, who has the additional charge of state technical education board secretary, now hears vital cases filed in appeal against orders passed by Siban. The cases filed under Section 20 of the Act deal with removal and suspension of panches and sarpanches. The power of appeal against the director’s order was earlier with the principal secretary of the department.
On December 1, 2014, the-then principal secretary of the department, Mandeep Singh Sandhu, “let go” of his powers and delegated these to the joint development commissioner. In a bid to “undo” the anomaly, the new principal secretary, A Venuprasad, put up a note to the rural development and panchayat minister Sikander Singh Maluka recently, seeking his approval for delegating the appellate powers to the director. The minister, however, refused.
“I refused to agree to the proposal as the director cannot be the first ordering authority and his own appellate authority,” said Maluka, adding: “I have no problem if the secretary takes the appellate powers again.”
“The original move to delegate the powers to a junior officer was not based on my orders, either verbal or written. It was the former secretary who did it on his own, I don’t know for what reasons. I am ready to undo the anomaly but the appellate authority has to be different from the original ordering authority,” the minister said.
When contacted, A Venuprasad said that he was out of station and would have to look at the minister’s orders once he got back. He, however, confirmed that he had received a request from the panchayat of Chandpur village that they did not want Ghumman to hear their appeal. “We are looking into that,” he added. The shamlat land of the village had allegedly been usurped by some people.
Ghumman, even though facing a vigilance inquiry for owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, was “handpicked” by the minister for monitoring all the construction works in villages. The minister’s order of May last year (HT has a copy) states that all files related to the RD-5 branch work would now be routed through the joint development commissioner. The branch deals with huge amounts of grants for these construction activities. Maluka, however, denied favouring Ghumman.