The Punjab government’s information and public relations department on Tuesday issued a formal chargesheet to additional director Senu Duggal for alleged administrative lapses. She has been directed to submit a reply within two weeks, in a move that has not only sent a tough message but also left many surprised in the corridors of power.
Hindustan Times had first reported on August 12 that the PR department would issue the chargesheet. Besides administrative lapses, among the main charges against Duggal is lack of supervision over the branch she heads that deals with releasing advertisements to print and electronic media.
Top government sources say that in case Duggal’s reply is not found satisfactory, an inquiry will be instituted to further ascertain the charges and recommend the next course of action.
At the core of government’s decision to proceed against Duggal is an advertisement/tender notice published in February this year in three little-known newspapers in Punjab. What prompted the authorities to act fast is the fact that the issue — of the government’s publicity department not releasing ads/ tender notices to leading newspapers — is now in the Punjab and Haryana high court and will come up for resumed hearing on August 18.
The high court has directed director, public relations, Ashwani Kumar Sharma, to remain present along with “records duly flagged”, specifically indicating the response to a particular para of the petition.
When contacted, Duggal told HT that she was not authorised to speak to the media. “I have sought permission from the director to permit me to speak to the media on the issue in question,” she added.
It is understood that the authorities took the decision to chargesheet Duggal after discussing the matter at the political level. On Monday, director Sharma, an IAS officer who is also a special principal secretary to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, had mooted the proposal to chargesheet Duggal, and sent the file to principal secretary, public relations, NS Kang for approval. It is learnt that Kang had raised a query on Monday to which the department responded in detail on Tuesday, after which Kang signed the file, paving the way for the chargesheet.
WHAT’S THE MATTER: QUIET NOTICE, ‘NO PUBLIC AUCTION’
In mid-February, the mandi officer of Kapurthala district issued a notice seeking applications for open auction of contract for housekeeping, canteen and parking for the current fiscal in the new sabzi mandi of market committees of Kapurthala, Dhilwan, Bholath and Sultanpur Lodhi.
The petitioner, a Kapurthala resident, contended that the notice had been published in English, Punjabi and Hindi newspapers having combined circulation of “29 copies” in Kapurthala, and that only four persons participated in the auction.
Another contention of the petitioner is that he had taken the contract of parking in 2012-13 and that he was also interested to get it this time. He has said that from the perusal of documents it was “crystal clear” that no public auction had been conducted as the four persons who participated in the auction were business partners, including two brothers.