The BJP government in Haryana has dropped a major penalty chargesheet against IAS officer Ashok Khemka, who was facing disciplinary proceedings.
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had heard Khemka out on October 6 and ordered that the chargesheet against him be dropped. Chief secretary DS Dhesi will issue a formal order in this regard soon. The dropping of the chargesheet will also pave the way for Khemka’s promotion to the rank of principal secretary early next year.
The 1991-batch IAS officer was chargesheeted during the Congress rule in September 2013 for major penalty under Rule 8 of the All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules. He was held liable for administrative misconduct for overstepping jurisdiction in passing orders to cancel the mutation of 3.5 acres in Gurgaon’s Shikohpur village, the land sold by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s businessman son-in-law Robert Vadra to realty major DLF and indulging in public criticism of the actions and policies of the state government.
Earlier this year, Khemka had submitted a statement of his defence to the state government and expressed willingness to be heard in person. The chief minister happens to be the authority in disciplinary matters pertaining to IAS officers. Major penalties under service rules range from reduction to a lower stage in the time-scale of pay for a specified period to dismissal from service.
As per a November 1981 clarification by the Union ministry of personnel: “The disciplinary authority has the inherent power to review and modify articles of charge or drop some of the charges or all charges after the receipt and examination of the written statement of defence submitted by the accused member of an All India Service under Rule 8(6) of the AIS (discipline and appeal) rules. The disciplinary authority is not bound to appoint an inquiry officer for conducting a probe into charges that are not admitted by the accused member of the service but about which the disciplinary authority is satisfied on the basis of the written statement of defence that there is no further cause to proceed with.”
After being transferred on October 11, 2012, from the post of director general, consolidation of holdings (DGCH), and inspector general, registration, Khemka had on October 12 and 15 ordered an inquiry into the alleged undervaluation of assets owned by Vadra or his companies in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat districts and set aside the mutation of 3.5 acres. Passing orders after he was transferred, as per the state government, constituted an administrative misconduct.
A committee of officers constituted by the government to inquire into the matter had termed Khemka’s orders inappropriate and without jurisdiction. He was also held liable for his public criticism of the actions and policies of the state government during the course of these developments.
In May 2013, the officer submitted a detailed response on the findings of the committee, justifying his October 2012 orders. In his response, Khemka, besides levelling serious allegations against two members of the committee, 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 also questioned the issuance of a commercial colony licence granted to Sky Light Hospitality by the town and country planning department.
The state government subsequently sought comments on his May 2013 response from the revenue department and the town and country planning department. The two departments, pertaining to which the issues were raised, disagreed with Khemka’s response and rebutted his allegations.