The fate of 23 Indian forest services (IFS) officers, promoted by the previous government in Himachal Pradesh, hangs in balance as the present government is planning to demote them, officials said on Saturday.
The IFS officers were promoted as additional principal chief conservator of forests. A senior government official said that the government has taken a decision to demote them as they were promoted by violating the rules.
"But before demoting them, the government wants to give them a chance to explain their viewpoint," said the official.
Forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri told IANS that the government has twice sought legal opinion and it was averse to the officers' promotions.
"There is no problem in reverting them," he said.
Sources said the previous government had promoted 30 IFS officers, all of them from the 1984 and 1985 IFS batch, against seven posts.
They were promoted in two batches in July and August last year.
At that time, the government said they were promoted on completing 25 years of service, mandatory for granting promotion as additional principal chief conservator of forests.
"Just to favour an officer, who was the junior-most and close to the then chief minister, the government promoted all the officers of the 1984 and the 1985 batch in one go," claimed an official.
Bharmouri said: "There is no justification in keeping the top heavy and a few at the lower level."
Officials said even the central government raised objections to increasing the posts of additional principal chief conservator of forests to 32, an all-time high in the state and much higher compared to big states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.