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‘Centre can interfere in disciplinary action by state against IAS/IFS officer’

The Centre’s stand came in response to a petition filed by the Haryana government challenging presidential pardon to whistleblower and Magsaysay awardee, Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2018 22:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh

The Centre can interfere in cases of disciplinary proceedings by a state against an all-India service (AIS) officer such as IAS, IPS and IFS, the government told the Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday.

If an officer is facing “undue hardship” at the hands of a state, the Centre has powers to even relax rules in such cases under the All India Services Act, 1951, provided the government is satisfied that its action would be “just”, the central government said in an affidavit.

The Centre’s stand came in response to a petition filed by the Haryana government challenging presidential pardon to whistleblower and Magsaysay awardee, Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer.

“It is a significant development. It means that an honest officer being hounded by the state government can always fall back on (the) Centre, who is the principal employer of the officer. Also for officers, it gives them a free hand in their working in their postings under state governments,” Chaturvedi’s lawyer, Sudarshan Goyal, said.

While working in Haryana, Chaturvedi is believed to have exposed scams in the state forest department including illegal use of public funds on a herbal park in a Fatehabad village, fake plantations in Jhajjar and illegal felling of trees for a canal in Bhiwani.

However, he was suspended by the state government in August 2007 for “misconduct”.

Alleging that he was victimised for exposing scams involving politicians and state officers, Chaturvedi approached the Centre in 2010.

On his plea, the ministry of environment and forests instituted a probe, which exonerated him but indicted some Haryana government officials in the scam.

In January, 2011, the President quashed the Haryana government’s chargesheet against Chaturvedi, who is now on central government deputation.

However, the state government challenged the President’s decision arguing that the Centre was interfering in the controversy involving an officer working under it.

The Centre told the court that the services of AIS officers are governed by the All India Services Act, 1951, irrespective of place of their posting.

The President is the appellate authority in respect of these officers and only the President/Centre, have the powers of dismissal, removal and compulsory retirement of these officers, the Centre told the court adding that the state government has powers only to initiate disciplinary proceedings, suspend and institute departmental proceedings. But the officer can appeal against such an exercise before the central government or the President, the Centre added.

Haryana had argued that its officials were indicted by the Centre’s probe without giving them any opportunity of hearing.

Meanwhile, the HC deferred hearing on another plea filed in the same dispute by Uttar Pradesh cadre IPS officer, Amitabh Thakur, who has requested the court to include him as a party stating that the issue had a vital implication for AIS officers. Thakur is posted as IGP, Lucknow.

First Published: Feb 28, 2018 22:58 IST