The Haryana government may initiate departmental action against 1991-batch IAS officer Ashok Khemka for criticising it in the media and overstepping his jurisdiction in cancelling the mutation of 3.5 acre in Gurgaon's Shikohpur village - the land that was sold by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's businessman son-in-law Robert Vadra to realty major DLF.
The IAS officer as the director general, consolidation of holdings (DGCH), had hit the headlines in October 2012 for cancelling the mutation and ordering an inquiry into the alleged undervaluation of assets owned by Vadra or his companies in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat districts.
A committee of officers constituted by the government to ascertain facts and inquire into the matter to ascertain acts of omission and commission by various authorities involved had termed Khemka's orders inappropriate and without jurisdiction.
Subsequently, the IAS officer submitted a detailed response on the findings of the committee, justifying his October 2012 orders. In his 100-page response, the IAS officer changed tacks to question the manner in which the sale of 3.5 acres from Onkareshwar Properties to Vadra's Sky Light Hospitality took place, terming it a "sham transaction". He had also questioned the issuance of a commercial colony licence granted to Sky Light Hospitality by the town and country planning department.
During the course of these developments, Khemka took part in television interviews and was quoted extensively in the print media.
Revenue dept and TCPD response
The government that sought comments on Khemka's response from the revenue department and the town and country planning department (TCPD) has now proposed to the chief minister - who also hold the Personnel portfolio - that departmental action may be initiated against the IAS officer under the provisions of the All-India Services (Conduct) Rules and All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules. When asked, chief minister's principal secretary SS Dhillon said the chief minister is yet to take a call on the matter.
What the action entails
Clause 7 of the All-India Services (Conduct) Rules says that no member of the all-India service will in any radio broadcast or communication over any public media or in any document published anonymously, pseudonymously or in his own name or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance will make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central or state government.
If the chief minister decides to initiate action against Khemka, the disciplinary authority will serve a copy of the articles of charge, the statement of the imputations of misconduct or misbehavior and a list of documents and witnesses by which each article of charge is proposed to be sustained under Rule 8 of All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rulesfor major penalty to Khemka.
Khemka will be asked to file a written statement of his defence and asked whether he wants to be heard in person. An inquiry officer could be appointed thereafter by the state government. Before initiating action under Rule 8 for major penalty, the state government will forward the record of inquiry to the Union Public Service Commission for its advice. The advice of the commission will be taken into consideration before making an order imposing a penalty on Khemka.
VADRA-DLF land issue timeline
October 12, 2012: Khemka raises suspicion about undervaluation of Vadra owned properties in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat
October 15: Khemka orders setting aside of mutation for 3.5 acres in Gurgaon's Shikohpur village
October 19: Haryana government orders constitution of a three-member committee of officers to inquire the matter
December 28: The committee of officers submits its findings to the chief secretary, terms Khemka's orders inappropriate and without jurisdiction
March 1, 2013: The government seeks Khemka's comments on the report.
May 21: Khemka submits his response to the chief secretary
September: Revenue department and town and country planning department submit their response. A departmental action recommended against Khemka. File sent for the chief minister's approval.