Odisha seeks forced retirement of top forest officer with over 400% unaccounted wealth
In its first ever recommendation of compulsory retirement for an all-India service officer, the Odisha government has recommended the Centre for the compulsory retirement of 1987-batch IFS officer Abhay Kant Pathak, who is accused of amassing disproportionate assets worth several crores, terming him ‘very corrupt and high-flying’.
Pathak, who served as the additional principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), plan, program and afforestation, would have become the next principal chief conservator of forests of Odisha in June next year as per his seniority.
However, it all changed when the vigilance officials raided his residence and other premises last month to find he had amassed disproportionate assets worth Rs 9.35 crore, which was 435 % of his total income. The vigilance department also found cash deposits worth Rs 17 crore in the bank accounts of his engineering graduate son Akash Pathak, who is also behind bars for impersonation, forgery and cheating of youths with the promise of jobs in Tata Motors.
A case under several sections of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018, has been registered against both Pathak and his son, Akash.
“Pathak was making cash deposits of his ill-gotten wealth in his son Akash Pathak’s bank accounts and further helping his son in fraudulently posing as MD of Tata Motors,” stated the CM in his recommendation letter to the centre.
In September last year, the Naveen Patnaik government had issued a circular saying the service records of employees who reach 50 years of age will be reviewed and premature retirement order will be handed out to employees if he/she is clearly lacking in integrity. Since then dozens of state government employees have been handed out premature retirement, but this is the first time a central government official would be given such a punishment. Pathak would however get pension if he is handed out compulsory retirement after Centre’s approval.
During lockdown when regular commercial flights were not allowed, the father-son duo along with former BJD minister Pradeep Panigrahy, junior Pathak’s prospective father-in-law, took 14 chartered flights to various cities in the country. They also stayed in star hotels at least 15 times this year with room rents going beyond Rs 2.3 lakh per day. Akash Pathak, who posed as the managing director of Tata Motors passengers division, reportedly defrauded more than a hundred youths promising them jobs in the company where he never worked. Though he kept insisting that he worked in Tata Motors, two days ago he finally confessed the truth to CID officials.
The biggest-ever disproportionate assets case in Odisha has come at a time when the Naveen Patnaik government is stressing on accountability in government works through a fancy slogan of 5T( Teamwork, Transparency, Technology leading to Transformation in Time). It also started the Mo Sarkar programme on Gandhi Jayanti last year to bridge the trust deficit between government officials and common people due to large-scale corruption in government offices over the last decade.