Publicity-seekers should be snubbed | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Publicity-seekers should be snubbed

There is another set of civil servants who while advertising their persona for presenting themselves to be extra-honest and bold, confront the supremacy of the political system in the constitutional scheme of things. This class of officers is fond of raising their cooked-up issues in the public and participate in TV debates and newspaper interviews. Surinder Singla writes.

chandigarh Updated: Nov 12, 2013 10:26 IST
Surinder Singla

There is another set of civil servants who while advertising their persona for presenting themselves to be extra-honest and bold, confront the supremacy of the political system in the constitutional scheme of things. This class of officers is fond of raising their cooked-up issues in the public and participate in TV debates and newspaper interviews. They work to acquire the halo of a whistleblower and indulge in every possible way for cheap publicity.


There is a telling indictment of such publicity-seekers by the Supreme Court on a recent public interest litigation (PIL). The advocate who filed the PIL mentioned only Robert Vadra (Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law), while his own petition mentions that there is a huge number of such cases. The apex court has observed as to why he wants to drag a particular name connected with a prime political family of the country. And, the apex court rightly snubbed the petitioner as a cheap publicity-seeker.

Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka, whom the media hails as a whistleblower, exactly replicated the "PIL advocate" tactics while examining the case of mutation of M/s Sky Light Hospitality, a company that belongs to Vadra, in Gurgaon. And, this was the only case picked up by him intentionally when there were 2,000 similar cases of mutation that were not examined at all. He erred on the law as there is no restriction on the sale and purchase of land in respect of a village under consolidation, until the notification of a scheme under Section 19 of the Consolidation Act, 1941.

Singled out

The fact that more than 2,000 sale transactions took place and were updated in the revenue records amply proves that it was a normal process, and there is no illegality and impropriety about the same. One would question as to why this particular purchase of M/s Sky Light Hospitality was singled out. What happened to the 1,999 other sale/purchases?

Secondly, the order passed by Khemka under Section 42, cancelling one mutation, is not sustainable as being violative of provisions of the law as well as natural justice. These powers have been delegated to the director general, consolidation and holdings (DGCH), and that too only to remedy any injustice during the consolidation process, and not to set aside a mutation, which is mere updation of the revenue records. Further, the orders were passed in clear contravention of the statute that mandates giving the opportunity of hearing to the affected parties. Thus, the orders were illegal and without jurisdiction.

Khemka did not stop there. He went on to order an inquiry regarding under-valuation of land deals only in case of Vadra, while excluding all other parties. The script that he followed seems to go totally in unison with the "PIL advocate". Of course, the deputy commissioner reported back that there was no under-valuation and there is also a perfect system where nobody can register a sale deed unless it strictly pays the prescribed registration fee above collector rates, which is the benchmark of determining under-valuation. There are other matters also where one can question Khemka about violation of the licencing procedure, which he was not competent to make.

By indulging in this exercise, wasn't he aware that he was not performing his job in a responsible manner that was expected of officers? Would he then invoke for himself a strict punishment for his conduct of not doing a thorough job while cancelling other mutations and ordering inquiry into sale/purchase agreements?

Pot calling kettle black

Now, about the release of his letter to the chief secretary. He objected to why a chargesheet against him was played up by the media, saying that it had tarnished his reputation. Does he realise that he himself was indulging in sullying the reputation of others on television and in newspapers on a daily basis?

In his letter, inter alia, Khemka states, "No agency in the state can afford not to toe the line of the chief minister. The sense of fear for falling foul of the desires of the political masters or the lure of greed and official favours from them is too tantalising for an ordinary mortal to disregard."

This particular observation is highly abusive and obnoxious of the entire bureaucracy in the state and, possibly, could extrapolate to the country's entire bureaucracy.

Is he the only an extraordinary mortal in the system? Will the IAS Officers' Association take care of such whistleblowers and publicity-mongers also in order to have a holistic approach to the stance they had the wisdom and courage to initiate in the case of former coal secretary PC Parakh, named by the CBI in the coal scam?