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Nadda wanted corruption inquiries to be put on hold

The BJP’s general secretary, JP Nadda, instrumental in the removal of Sanjeev Chaturvedi as CVO of AIIMS, Delhi, also wanted all anti-corruption inquiries initiated by Chaturvedi to be put on hold, documents revealed.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2014 04:09 IST
Saikat Datta

The BJP’s general secretary, JP Nadda, who was instrumental in the removal of Sanjeev Chaturvedi as the chief vigilance officer (CVO) of AIIMS, Delhi, also wanted all the anti-corruption inquiries initiated by him to be put on hold, documents have revealed.

In his letter to the Union health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan in June this year, Nadda demanded that an order be passed that “all inquiries/disciplinary action initiated” by Chaturvedi “are to be put on hold and reviewed by the new CVO”. One of the inquiries initiated by Chaturvedi was against a 1982-batch IAS officer Vineet Chawdhry, who had served with Nadda earlier in Himachal Pradesh. Official government records show that Chawdhry was with the state health department when Nadda was the health minister between 2001 and 2003. Nadda did not reply to a detailed questionnaire sent earlier or respond to messages.

The inquiries against Chawdhry was initiated in April 2013 which was immediately followed by Nadda’s letter to the then minister for personnel, V Narayanswamy, seeking Chaturvedi’s removal from the post of CVO. His latest letter to the union health minister, not only reiterated his demand for Chaturvedi’s removal, but also sought that all the cases, including the one against Chawdhry be put on hold.

What has the Union health ministry abuzz is Nadda’s additional demand that Chaturvedi, a 2002-batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer is sent back to his parent cadre state, Haryana. Ironically, the BJP’s state unit had supported Chaturvedi when he was being hounded by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government for exposing several corruption cases before being deputed to the centre.

Chaturvedi and the Hooda government in Haryana

Chaturvedi is no stranger to being a whistle blower. As an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Chaturvedi took on several corruption cases. The state government hit back with transfers and inquiries against him. At that time the state unit of the BJP took up his defence in the state assembly. This is why Nadda’s demand that Chaturvedi be sent back to Haryana even before his central tenure is over, almost smacks of a witch-hunt.

It is clear that if Chaturvedi is repatriated to the state, he will have to face the wrath of the state government once again.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/9/CVC_file_note.jpg

This is why the Standing Committee of Parliament on heath had issued strict instructions to the union health ministry that Chaturvedi’s tenure at AIIMS is not disturbed. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had also given instructions that he was not to be removed from his post without the consultation of the cabinet secretary.

The union health ministry had given an undertaking that it would maintain these directions. However, none of this was done while Chaturvedi was removed at lightning speed on August 14.

Speedy Removal

Documents available with Hindustan Times also show the speed at which Chaturvedi was removed. Nadda followed up his June letter with a meeting with Dr Harsh Vardhan in July. Satish K Thakur, principal private secretary to Dr Harsh Vardhan recorded the details of the meeting and stated that “the minister has desired” that the issue be examined and “submitted for his perusal at the earliest”. Thakur raised the issue again on August 3 and a junior officer pointed out that the file was being processed. On August 13 a file noting was prepared for the removal of Chaturvedi as the CVO of AIIMS. Within 24 hours all the top health ministry officials signed the file twice clearing the way for Chaturvedi’s removal.

The union health secretary, Lov Verma, who had agreed on file in May that the issues raised by Nadda were not correct, changed his opinion in August. The file note also cited that the ministry had raised queries with the General Body (GB) and the Institutional Body (IB) of AIIMS about the CVO’s appointment but did not receive a response. What it did not record was that the creation of the post of a deputy secretary to be the full-time CVO was cleared by Standing Finance Committee (SFC), the GB and the IB. This decision was recorded by the health ministry according to the provisions of the AIIMS Act, 1956. Verma did not respond to a detailed questionnaire from Hindustan Times sent to him earlier.

Chaturvedi and the CVC

The union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has repeatedly stated that the move to remove Chaturvedi was due to the opposition by the CVC. On August 22, under fire for the removal, he tweeted that he was merely “re-profiling” Chaturvedi.

He also stated that Chaturvedi was “twice rejected by the CVC.”

But the facts are quite different from the claims made by the minister. As BJP leader Nadda’s letter now makes it abundantly clear, the union health minister was clearly acting on his behest. Nadda’s letter in June was followed up by meetings in July and the principal private secretary of Dr Harsh Vardhan took up the matter personally. But was the CVC against Chaturvedi’s appointment?

The man who first raised the first objection in the CVC was Prabhat Kumar, a director. He had already dealt with several corruption cases exposed by Chaturvedi in Haryana. When the cases were sent to the CVC for further action, Kumar wrote on file that there was no need to send the cases to the CBI. He wrote that the issues raised by Chaturvedi “were regarding social projects and does not contain issues which may be covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act…”

He also recorded on file that he was of the opinion that “the CBI inquiry may not be needed at all as the matter has already been considered by the CEC (Central Empowered Committee) and the elements of corruption angle is not prominently there…” Had Kumar’s assertions been accepted, the cases exposed by Chaturvedi would have been buried.

But one of the vigilance commissioners, R Sreekumar, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer immediately rescinded Kumar’s opinion and wrote that the Commission “may seek the opinion of the CBI in this matter.” With Kumar over ruled, the case went to the CBI which promptly sent an opinion that a corruption case was clearly made out, based on the material provided by Chaturvedi. The same Kumar raised the issue of appointing Chaturvedi as the CVO of AIIMS without their permission.

But the facts are clearly in favour of Chaturvedi. The CVC manual does not list AIIMS as an autonomous institution that seeks the Commission’s clearance to appoint a CVO. In past all CVOs of AIIMS have been appointed by the ministry and the CVC was only informed of the decision. Even when Chaturvedi was being replaced, the ministry did not seek the permission of the CVC to appoint Dr Vishwas Mehta as the CVO and merely informed it, according to the documents available with HT. Clearly, the health minister’s claim that CVC guidelines were violated in appointing Chaturvedi don’t hold true. The letter from Nadda is a confirmation of the real reasons that led to Chaturvedi’s removal as the CVO of AIIMS.