Bureaucrat sets aside judicial findings in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh
Posted September 6, 2009on:
Can an IAS officer overrule the findings of the Lokayukta, made after due process of law?
Yes, in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh if the findings relate to corruption charges against the BJP leaders and if Shivraj Singh Chauhan happens to be the chief minister. The less said about the IAS officers in the State, the better.
Acting on a complaint made by Congress MLA from Bhopal North Arif Aquil, the Lokayukta had investigated and found substantiated the complaints of corruption against 39 BJP members of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC). The Lokayukta, accordingly, recommended their disqualification to continue as members of the BMC and also recommended that they should be debarred from contesting elections to the BMC for five years under the provisions of the MP Municipal Corporations Act.
The recommendation was sent to the Commissioner of Bhopal who, Under the Act, has the supervisory powers over the municipal corporation under his jurisdiction, for issuing necessary orders. This was in April 2007. The Commissioner at the time was B.R.Naidu who, as Additional Collector and Collector, had faced corruption charges and had then been patronised by Digvijay Singh who has used Naidu to pin down his political rivals.
So, what did Naidu do? Nothing. Chauhan did not want the matter to hot up on the eve of elections — first for Vidhan Sabha and then for Lok Sabha. Meanwhile, he replaced Naidu as the Bhopal Commissioner with Pukhraj Maru who has had different types of aberrations in his career as IAS officer and is only too keen to keep himself in the good books of the chief minister.
Using his authority as the nodal officer for implementing the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act in respect of the BMC, Maru turned down, on the first of this month, the recommendation of the Lokayukta to declare the 39 BJP members disqualified, and absolved the BJP members from all charges of corruption. Maru’s grounds for doing so: the recommendation of the Lokayukta was not in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act.
The Commissioner apparently presumes that the Municipal Corporations Act overrides the Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta Act (which was enacted to specifically deal with corruption complaints against public servants) and that the satisfaction of the Bhopal Commissioner (a bureaucrat) is more important than the satisfaction of the Lokayukta (a former Supreme Court judge or former High Court chief justice), for declaring a member of the BMC disqualified.
He quotes from the Municipal Corporations Act to emphasise that the Divisional Commissioner may, at any time, remove elected councillor if his continuance as a councillor is not, in the opinion of the Divisional Commissioner, desirable in the interest of the public or the Corporation; if it is found that he does not belong to the category for which the seat was reserved; and, if the Corporation has, by a resolution, supported by at least two third of the total number of councillors, recommended that a councillor is not fit to continue as a councillor on account of misconduct in the discharge of his duties or disgraceful conduct and should, therefore, be removed.
So, what if the Lokayukta found the 39 BJP councillors indulging in corrupt practices! The IAS officer did not find it desirable to remove them and he did not remove them.
The opposition parties have of late been reminding chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan of his promises to eradicate corruption. The chief minister had, indeed, been talking incessantly (he always talks incessantly whatever the subject) against corruption. Soon after the BJP’s second victory in the last year’s Assembly elections, Chauhan had been declaring that corruption would not be tolerated.
The leaders of the opposition parties have seen Chauhan in office for nearly four years and they should have known by now that there is not even a remote connection between what Chauhan says and what he thinks and what he does. It is not a new thing that he has come to the aid of the corrupt soon after declaring that corruption would not be tolerated.
He had been talking in a similar language about corruption when he had first become the chief minister four years ago. Soon after, the Lokayukta had put up a challan in the special court in a corruption case against an IAS officer, Chauhan had promptly amended the Service Rules to delete the clause requiring an officer, against whom a challan has been put up in a court, to be placed under suspension. He was said to have consulted at that time some of his close bureaucrats about amending the Lokayukta Act in order to take out whatever sting it has but was advised against it for fear of bad publicity.
Instead of amending the Lokayukta Act, Chauhan adopted a “wiser” method. About cases involving big guns, he corrupted the Lokayukta (corruption cases against the retired Lokayukta Ripusudan Dayal are pending in courts); and in respect of minor matters, he simply left it to the able IAS officers such as B.R.Naidu and Pukhraj Maru.