DoPT comes to Hooda’s rescue

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Haryana waves a timely and dubious DoPT note in the Centre’s face to scuttle a CBI probe and muzzle a whistleblower

By Jay Mazoomdaar

Turf war (from left) BS Hooda, V Narayanasamy and Jayanthi Natarajan
Turf war (from left) BS Hooda, V Narayanasamy and Jayanthi Natarajan

THE CENTRE has no jurisdiction to intervene in violations of Central Acts in states or to protect whistleblowers even if they belong to the All India Services. This is what MoS V Narayanasamy and his Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) told the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The DoPT note issued on 16 February was cited by Haryana Forest Minister Captain Ajay Singh Yadav in the Assembly on 6 March as the sole defence against a CBI probe ordered by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) into multicrore forestry scams and violations of forest and wildlife laws in the state.

The whistleblower in question — IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi — has been harassed by the Haryana government since 2007 for exposing the corruption and violations of laws that involve Chief Minister BS Hooda’s office, his ministers Kiran Chaudhary and Yadav, and a host of top IFS and IAS officials. In the face of stiff resistance from the Haryana government, it took the Centre five years, two Presidential interventions and a MoEF inquiry to revoke the illegal suspension order and chargesheet slapped on Chaturvedi by the state. The whistleblower’s claims were subsequently examined by the CVC and the CBI, which recommended a probe.

The Hooda government was desperate for an escape route. Back in March 2011, when the whistleblower wrote to the PMO seeking a CBI probe, his file was referred to the DoPT. Since then, all Central agencies involved agreed that cases flagged off by Chaturvedi deserved a CBI probe. But the DoPT came to the Hooda government’s rescue. Consider:
• The DoPT sent its note, marked confidential, to the PMO on 16 February
• On 24 February, MM Joshi, a serving IFS officer in Haryana and a prime accused in the scams and violations, filed an RTI application to obtain the note. His surprisingly specific application even mentioned the date on which the note was sent to the PMO
• In just three working days, the DoPT handed Joshi the confidential note, a thirdparty information, without inviting objections from Chaturvedi, which is mandatory under Section 11(1) of the RTI Act. Ironically, the DoPT is the nodal ministry for the RTI Act and for drafting of the Whistleblower Protection Bill
• On 6 March, the state government submits the note, obtained by Joshi in his private capacity, in the House to dismiss the MoEF inquiry as “ultra-vires” (beyond its power).

There seems to be more than mere questionable legal wisdom behind the DoPT note that was leaked, found its way to the Assembly, and ended up saving the day for the Hooda government. On 7 March, when the state wrote to the MoEF arguing against the CBI probe, the DoPT note was its only defence.

The MoEF, it is learnt, is livid with the DoPT note that renders the green ministry powerless

Forest and wildlife are on the concurrent list of the Constitution and Article 256 empowers the Centre to give directions to states for compliance of Central Acts. Also, the Central government, being the appointing authority, has overriding powers over the state governments in matters of All India Services, which is on the Union List.

While Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan is yet to go on record, the MoEF brass, it is learnt, is livid with the DoPT note that renders the green ministry powerless. Environmental lawyers and IFS officers, such as Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Upadhyay, Project Tiger’s ex-director PK Sen and head of the IFS association AN Prasad, contacted by TEHELKA were unequivocal that mere technicalities shouldn’t come in the way of justice and, prima facie, the note was unlikely to stand legal scrutiny.

So was it an oversight? Will someone be held accountable for leaking third-party information? Will the DoPT clarify that the note may not come in the way of the CBI probe that the CVC recommended? Contacted repeatedly, Narayanasamy promised to respond. He has not, yet. Once again, Haryana’s can of worms stays secure.

Jay Mazoomdaar is Independent Journalist.
jaymazoomdaar@gmail.com

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