The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has indicted four top officials of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for illegally stalling the transfer of a senior officer to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The Ministry’s secretary Brahm Dutt, joint secretaries P.K. Tripathi and S.K. Dash and deputy secretary R.K. Aggarwal raised frivolous objections time and again, distorted the facts and tried to mislead the Minister to stall a lawful order for the transfer of Superintending Engineer Vishnu Shankar Prasad to the NHAI, the tribunal said.
Imposing a cost of Rs 50,000 on the Ministry, CAT Principal Bench Chairman V.K. Bali and Member Ramesh Chandra Panda said it would be up to the government to recover the cost from officers who might be responsible for creating bottlenecks and not implementing the order for Prasad’s deputation to the NHAI.
“The respondents (the Ministry and the four officials) have illegally, arbitrarily and without any semblance of justification, stalled implementation of a lawful order passed way back on 24.9.2008, and dragged the applicant (Prasad) in this avoidable litigation. They put all hurdles in the way of the applicant,” the CAT said in its June 2 order.
Allowing Prasad’s plea, the CAT order the Ministry to forthwith relieve him to join his deputation post with the NHAI.
The tribunal took strong objection to the filing of false affidavit by the Ministry.
“Facts are sacrosanct and tinkering with the same and going even to the extent of filing false affidavit is fraught with serious dangers; which if permitted will pollute the whole administration of justice,” it said.
“The message must go clear and loud. Litigation in court is not a game that may be played by all fair and foul means; there has to be fairness only, and that can be only if the facts are truly stated,” the CAT said.
On September 24, 2008, Prasad was ordered to be sent to the NHAI as Chief General Manager on deputation with immediate effect.
But senior officials of the Ministry, including Secretary Brahm Dutt, did not implement the order on the ground that Prasad had not completed the ‘cooling off’ period since his return after his previous deputation.
The tribunal rejected the respondent officials’ contention on the ground that similarly placed officers were allowed to go on deputation without completing the ‘cooling of period’.
Holding that Prasad had proved legal mala fide, the CAT lamented that attitude of the Secretary and three other top officials was of defiance.
“We are distressed to note that even when confronted with the falsity in the affidavit…the respondents would have no remorse and regretfulness,” the CAT said.