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Posts Tagged ‘S.R.Mohanty

How Shivraj Singh Chouhan manipulated the higher echelons of bureaucracy is no less interesting than his political manipulation to become chief minister. He did not have a day’s experience of government work when he became the chief minister and he had to handle the bureaucracy, then headed by Vijay Singh. An opportunity again came his way which he grabbed. An IAS officer, S R Mohanty, was among over three dozen persons against whom the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the State police had registered an FIR for allegedly misappropriating funds amounting to over Rs 700 crore. Mohanty had moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking quashing of the FIR against him and the General Administration Department (GAD) of the State government had issued a favourable certificate to help him in the High Court.

Chouhan was “angry” that the government should help a corruption-accused officer. Blaming it on Vijay Singh, he replaced him with Rakesh Sahni as the chief secretary by superseding over half a dozen IAS officers senior to him. Sahni was also allowed to continue as chairman of the State Electricity Board which he then was. If Vijay Singh was a no-nonsense IAS officer, Sahni never troubled his conscience by trivialities like professional ethics. Vijay Singh was sent to Gwalior as chairman of the Revenue Board. From there he went on deputation to the Centre and retired as Defence Secretary.

Chouhan was, in fact, so “angry” at the help provided to corruption-accused S R Mohanty that he publicly vowed not to spare Mohanty and ensure that investigation against Mohanty was resumed soon and the “corrupt officer” was sent to jail at the earliest. Mohanty was once a blue-eyed boy of then chief minister Digvijaya Singh and had acquired expertise in extra-curricular assignments. If he could be useful to Digvijaya Singh, why not to Chouhan? Mohanty today stands promoted in the scale of Secretary, and is considered close to both Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh, who takes too much interest in money-related administrative affairs. Chouhan has not allowed the investigation against Mohanty to progress in spite of the Supreme Court directions.

Sahni, as chief secretary-cum-chairman of the State Electricity Board was at his disposal when Chouhan contested the Budhni by-election to enter the Assembly because he was a member of Lok Sabha when he became the chief minister. A massive misuse of the government machinery was made to help Chouhan in the by-election, inviting the wrath of the Election Commission. Sahni ensured 24-hour power supply in Budhni constituency villages while the entire State was suffering from acute power crisis. Perhaps for the first time the Election Commission was constrained to remove the Returning Officer a few days before polling for openly helping Chouhan’s prospects. The pliant IAS officer was duly rewarded by Chouhan by giving him a prize post as soon as the code of conduct period was over.

The blatant misuse of the government machinery was the major ground in the well-documented election petition moved against Chouhan’s election by the defeated Congress candidate, Rajkumar Patel, in the MP High Court. Those who had gone through the petition were certain that not only Chouhan’s election was likely to be declared null and void but some IAS officers might also come in for censure by the High Court. Chouhan did not contest the petition in the High Court, but only “on the ground”. Rajkumar Patel did not appear for the recording of his statement in spite of repeated notices from the High Court. The petition was dismissed in default.

The following is the slightly edited version of the Open Letter written by Dr Sunilam, Convener, Jan Sansad Abhiyan Samiti, to the Chief Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Government

In the whole of India in the administrative circles, you cannot find a case where an employee can be promoted even as a disciplinary inquiry and a criminal case (for bungling hundreds of crores of rupees) is pending against him. But this is done in the case of S R Mohanty IAS (1982 batch) in Madhya Pradesh. Then MD of the MP Industrial Development Corporation (MPIDC), Mohanty is charged with bungling hundreds of crores of rupees as loans in connivance with some industrialists. The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the MP Police investigated it and registered a Case No. 25/2004 against him. The State Government issued him a charge sheet and after finding his explanation unsatisfactory, instituted a disciplinary inquiry against him. At the same time the State Government sent his file relating to sanction of prosecution to the Government of India on 28/6/2011.

The same State Government, however, promoted him to no less a position than the Principal Secretary to the State Government looking after a huge budget as Secretary, State Planning Commission and Principal Secretary Non-Conventional Energy Department (a department facing severe charges of corrupt practices in land allotment for solar parks).

 

Disciplinary inquiry against him is still on, his criminal case is still pending for sanction of prosecution and his general reputation in the State is dim. Nothing did change in the last 6 years. Yet Mohanty got the promotion. The second para of his “conditional promotion” order reads: “This promotion is subject to the final outcome of the petition 267/2010 filed in the Central Administrative Tribunal by Shri Mohanty against issuing him a charge sheet and institution of disciplinary inquiry, final decision in disciplinary case, any other court order, final outcome in future of the proposal sent to Govt. of India Department of Personnel and Training on 28/6/2011 regarding criminal case 25/2004″

You cannot find a parallel anywhere in the country.

Secondly, the Government of India has returned the proposal of Government of MP (to exonerate Mohanty in the criminal case and not to accord sanction of prosecution).

 

This happened after his promotion, as Government of India DOPT did not agree with the proposal as the State Government had failed to convince the GOI that it had followed the orders of the Supreme Court regarding such cases. With this return, the promotion order, though illegal ab initio, fell flat as void. Yet the State did not revert Mohanty.

It appears that everything is ready forMohanty’s second promotion –this time as Additional Chief Secretary (in the rank and pay scale of Chief Secretary of a State). General Administrative Department (GAD) is all set to hold the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) meeting and Mohanty will receive his final promotion as an IAS officer in the rank and pay scale of Chief Secretary of a State shortly.

As if this was not enough, the State Government wishes to promote along with Mohanty two more officers illegally so that Mohanty is not alone in the band to receive the fire. K. Suresh, IAS (1982 batch), facing a prosecution in a CBI case (for illegally allowing berthing to a foreign ship in Indian territory as Chairman of Vizag Port Trust) was made Principal Secretary General Administrative Department (GAD) a few days back to manage the files. He is also going to be the beneficiary as he handles Mohanty’s files on prosecution and as a senior colleague in the same department to persuade the Secretary Personnel, Ashwini Rai, who looks after the IAS promotions. So all is well set.

 

If K. Suresh facing the CBI prosecution gets the promotion as Additional Chief Secretary, this will be another feather in the cap of State Government. Another one to get the share of loot will be Rakesh Agrawal. Facing adverse CR written by Chairman of Human Rights Commission (an Ex Justice of the Supreme Court) Rakesh Agrawal’s case will also be a test case for the chief minister who had earlier concurred with the adverse CR. Will he now reverse his own opinion against that written by a retired Supreme Court Judge? All three are likely to get the rank of ACS, equal to that of the Chief Secretary.

 

A recent Supreme Court verdict has put a question mark on the efficacy of the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta Organisation as the watchdog against corruption. The apex court has ordered resumption of proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act against 1982 batch IAS officer Raghav Chandra, who is at present serving as Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Surface Transport, and others.
The case relates to the early 2000’s when Raghav Chandra was the Commissioner of MP Housing Board. Under his direction, the Housing Board had purchased land from a private party for construction of houses at Katni. The transaction, done in a highhanded manner, had resulted in a loss to the government to the tune of crores of rupees. Katni Collector Shahjad Khan and Ram Meshram, who was posted as the Land Acquisition Officer in the MP Housing Board, were Chandra’s main accomplices.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had, in his report for the year ending March 2009, observed that Raghav Chandra’s inexorable and faulty decision to purchase the disputed land had cost the exchequer Rs 6.72 crore.
The case, which has gone through many vicissitudes, was briefly like this: Raghav Chandra entered into a conspiracy with B D Gautam, director of Olphert Company, and purchased the land belonging to the Olphert Company at higher rates for the MP Housing Board and, thus, caused financial loss to the government. It was done hurriedly, without giving enough time for filing objections.
The land was disputed as its ownership was under litigation in which the State was also a party, according to Collector Shahjad Khan’s communication to the Housing Board Commissioner. Raghav Chandra purchased the land at the rate of Rs 10 lakh per acre whereas the Collector had intimated to him the rate of the land was Rs 3 lakh per acre. Then something happened and the same Collector wrote to Raghav Chandra saying that the rate of the land was Rs 10 lakh per acre. The Collector’s communications form part of the court records.
A complaint was made to the Lokayukta. While the Lokayukta Organisation was investigating it, developments regarding this matter were taking place at different levels. The government sought a report from R R Gangarekar, who succeeded Shahjad Khan as Collector of Katni. A P Shrivastava, secretary in the housing and environment department, was deputed to conduct an inquiry into the transaction. Several cases were filed by different people in the Madhya Pradesh High Court as well as in a Katni court.
More relevant is a direction of the High Court to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the State government. After hearing the two sides on a public interest litigation (PIL), a division bench directed in September 2005 the EOW to inquire and report, among other things, on the following issues: full facts of transaction at the time of agreement and what was the price of land at the time of execution of agreement.
Sushovan Banerjee, Deputy Inspector General of Police at the EOW, communicated to the general administration department (GAD) of the State government in December 2007 that the EOW had not registered any separate case in the matter but had only investigated on the points referred to by the High Court. The EOW had found nine persons including Raghav Chandra prima facie guilty of the offence; a report was accordingly submitted to the High Court on June 2, 2006.
Besides, Banerjee pointed out, the EOW had registered an FIR on March 20, 2005 against Raghav Chandra in connection with the following transactions: illegal sale of plots at MIG Lines near Indore as well as in other towns.
Closure Report
The Lokayukta Organisation had, meanwhile, completed its investigation, found nothing wrong in the transaction and submitted the closure report in the court of Additional Session Judge (Katni) R K Soni, who was the designated judge for hearing the Lokayukta cases. Soni went through the facts of the case carefully and rejected the Lokayukta’s closure report.
(It was unlike R P S Chauhan, special judge in Bhopal, who had readily accepted the Lokayukta’s closure report in the ‘dumper scam’ against chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his wife Sadhna Singh Chauhan and dismissed the case on the most ridiculous grounds, as already reported in these columns).
Judge Soni found in his verdict of April 26, 2005 that Raghav Chandra, Katni Collector Shahjad Khan and Ram Meshram (Land Acquisition Officer) had committed the offence under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 120-B of IPC. He directed the Lokayukta Organisation to write (to the government) for sanction (as it is required under the Prevention of Corruption Act) for their prosecution.
The High Court quashed special judge R K Soni’s order of April 26, 2005 on the ground that the order of the special judge “is illegal and without jurisdiction.”
The High Court judgement was challenged in the Supreme Court by Arun Kumar Aggarwal, one of the aggrieved parties. A division bench of the apex court comprising justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu set aside on September 2 the judgement of the High Court and restored the order of the special judge of Katni dated April 26, 2005. The 19-page verdict of the Supreme Court says: “we direct the respondents (State of Madhya Pradesh and others) to comply with the order passed by the trial court within two months from this date.”
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has of late been indulgent to IAS officers. It had earlier quashed with an alarming speed the FIR against high-profile IAS officer S R Mohanty in the Rs 700-crore ICD scam. That, too, was set aside by the Supreme Court and the EOW, which was the investigating agency, was directed to file the challan within three months. The EOW has been waiting for the government sanction for nearly six months. Now it is to be seen how long Shivraj Singh Chauhan takes in the case of Raghav Chandra!


October 2014
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