The back-story of how the department of personnel and training (DoPT) stalled attempts by the Prime Minister’s Office under Manmohan Singh to prevent harassment of whistleblower civil servant Sanjeev Chaturvedi will finally be out.
The Central Information Commission has ordered the environment ministry to release correspondence relating to the Indian Forest Service officer between the PMO and DoPT in 2012-13, rejecting the environment ministry’s “lame excuse” that it could intrude into Chaturvedi’s privacy.
Rather than relying on the environment ministry’s claim, information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu had picked up the phone to call Chaturvedi to inquire if he had any grounds for objecting to the correspondence being made public.
The IFS officer made it clear that the information sought by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal was neither personal nor given in fiduciary capacity.
“In democracy, the people have right to information about working of or obstruction to both the political executive and bureaucratic machinery,” Acharyulu said in his ruling. He also questioned the bonafide of the environment ministry’s public information officer – who first sat on the request for nearly a year – and then conveniently assumed that Chaturvedi would object to release the information but didn’t bother to ask him.
Agarwal’s information request filed in 2013 was triggered by a string of media reports detailing how Chaturvedi was being harassed by the Haryana government. And the DoPT – rather than protecting the officer credited with unearthing scams in the state – was playing ball with the Hooda government and ignoring pointed clarifications raised by the PMO.
DoPT’s intervention had also put off a CBI probe that the environment ministry wanted to order as well as scuttled a request by Chaturvedi that his cadre should be changed from Haryana – that was penalising him for inquiring into scams – to Uttarakhand.
The Aam Aadmi Party had last year alleged that the Centre had removed Chaturvedi from the chief vigilance officer’s post at AIIMS because he had detected some serious irregularities at the hospital. Soon after coming to power in February this year, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had asked the Centre to loan Chaturvedi but the government is yet to complete the formalities.