The working of the local bodies department has come under the scanner following a Punjab and Haryana high court directive instructing the state government to review alleged "irregularities" committed during the previous SAD-BJP government tenure in promoting 'ineligible' officials as executive officers even though there was no vacancy.
The direction has come on three separate civil writ petitions filed by Jaspal Khokhar, a law graduate from Mansa.
Justice Surya Kant directed the state government to review promotions of 12 superintendents, earlier posted at different improvement trusts, as executive officers (EOs) and to take fresh decision strictly in accordance with the law within three months. "The petitioner can approach the court again, if the grievance is not fully redressed," the judge said in his May 17 order.
The petitioner submitted that the then local bodies minister Tikshan Sud and the then principal secretary had "hurriedly" promoted several employees last year before the poll code was enforced on December 24.
Interestingly, several new posts were allegedly created to "adjust" favourites without obtaining the mandatory prior sanction of the administrative and finance departments.
One post of director, town planning, five posts of chief engineer and several posts of superintendent engineer were created in violation of norms, it was submitted. Interestingly, the local bodies department has not notified the posts of chief town planner and senior town planner till date. In several cases, even the disciplinary proceedings pending against officials were ignored while issuing promotion orders.
The EOs, whose promotions were ordered by the HC for consideration of review, include Paramjit Singh (Bathinda), Kuljeet Kaur (Ludhiana), Parbodh Bhatia (Roopnagar), Harinder Singh and Pritam Singh (Jalandhar), Neeru Bala and Ravinder (Barnala), Rajesh Kumar (Patiala) and Harpreet Singh (Nabha).
Sud, when contacted, feigning ignorance, said: "The promotion notes, along with service records of the employees, were presented by the department officials. I considered the same before ordering these promotions." On whether these promotions were done in accordance with department rules, he evaded a direct reply.
Suresh Kumar, principal secretary, said the department was reviewing the promotions in compliance with the court orders.
"Besides, we are also looking into separate complaints received from a section of employees against promotion of certain juniors," he said.
Jaspal Khokhar, a law graduate from Mansa, had submitted in three separate civil writ petitions that there was no vacancy for EO (class III) post. "Rather, two EOs were surplus," he said. On January 31, 2011, the department amended the rules, mandating that no post of EO (class III) shall be filled by way of promotions.
"On November 15, the department illegally promoted six ineligible superintendents as EOs. The HC issued notice of motion to the government on my petition against such promotions on November 23. But, department again promoted three superintendents on December 2," he alleged.
This happened despite submitting a memorandum to the minister, seeking filling of vacant posts on the basis of direct recruitment so that law graduates could get justice, he alleged.