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"Minimal Legal Knowledge Expected From The Principal Secretary"; Bombay HC Reiterates Demand For Action In Tribal Scam [Read Order]

Nitish Kashyap
18 Feb 2020 5:08 AM GMT
"Minimal Legal Knowledge Expected From The Principal Secretary"; Bombay HC Reiterates Demand For Action In Tribal Scam [Read Order]
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The Bombay High Court on Monday reiterated the demand for action in the 6000 crore tribal scam case and expressed displeasure at the affidavit filed by the Principal Secretary, Tribal Development Department after details regarding action taken against employees involved in the said scam were not given in the affidavit.

Division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice RI Chagla had asked the tribal department in December last year as to why the 123 employees who are said to be involved in the scam have not been placed under suspension.

In the affidavit filed by the Principal Secretary now, it is submitted that Justice MG Gaikwad (Retired) Enquiry Committee Report mentions 104 government employees against whom criminal action should be taken. Out of these 104, 8 have expired. Furthermore, the department has registered police complaints against the remaining 96, the affidavit states.

At tthe outset, Justice Dharmadhikari objected to omission of certain information submitted before the bench-

"Firstly, when these police complaints have been filed is not informed by the Principal Secretary to this Court. Then, she has not informed this Court as to how, when 96 complaints alleging commission of serious offences and punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 so also the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 have been lodged, only 78 are converted into FIRs.

Why is the police machinery not inclined to even register an FIR against the others, is not explained by her."

Then Court proceeded to harangue the Principal Secretary-

"We need not refer to all facets of the inquiry but presently we are concerned with another issue and that is primarily of not disclosing to the Court the full details. We do not know why this Principal Secretary does not realise that if our orders are read carefully and properly, possibly she herself may have to loose out on prime postings and may face departmental action.

She may have to quit office as well. We do not think that we derive pleasure when we make this observation but the manner in which she files affidavits in this Court leaves a lot to be desired. She must realise that when details are being placed before the Court, the Court is bound to raise queries if the same are incomplete or there are gaps which may not be a deliberate job. However, when the Principal Secretary says that out of 104 prosecutions, prosecutions against 8 cannot be launched as they have expired, she should have been careful in ascertaining the details of their death."

Moreover, Court said-

"Is it too much to ask somebody appointed as Principal Secretary and deposing before a Court on oath to keep aside everything else and take all matters in hand promptly so that no impression is given by him/her that he/she is not truthful to the Court.

"We are pained and anguished to say this because in the affidavit filed today she states compliance is fully made. However, it is not compliant at all. Even if our order does not say something specifically, the implications and consequences of the same and read as a whole, should be understood and if there is any problem, the solution is available within Mantralaya. There is a Principal Secretary in the Department of Law and Judiciary with whom the deponent of this affidavit says that she was regularly interacting and who could have been requested to apprise the deponent of the affidavit the legal provision. A minimal legal knowledge is expected and that it can be possessed by experienced officials. They can improve upon their skills and that is what public service really means. A public servant must be so diligent, careful and vigilant that nothing escapes his/her attention."

The bench then asked Special Counsel for the State AY Sakhare about the civil action proposed in the MK Gaikwad Committe report. Government Resolution dated January 22, 2020 was pointed out, wherein 105 suppliers/vendors have been black-listed.

Justice Dharmadhikari observed-

"Now, such an order of black-listing has to be passed in exceptional circumstances. The law is that before black-listing, the affected persons would have to be issued a show cause notice, their version has to be called for and individual orders of black-listing are expected to be passed. Whether an executive fiat can be a substitute for individual black-listing action or orders will prima facie be an important issue and when raised, possibly the Government may not be able to defend the Resolution.

That is why we told Mr. Sakhare that this affidavit is nothing but an eye-wash. If everybody knows that prima facie by an executive fiat you cannot black-list 105 suppliers, then, the affidavit enclosing a copy of that Government Resolution or executive fiat would never have been filed."

Finally, the bench noted that out of the 104 employees named in the Report of the Gaikwad Committee, 8 have expired and 63 have retired-

"Then it clearly means that somebody has allowed these 63 employees to retire. That is not informed to us. When did they retire is not informed to us and this compels us to make the observation that these officials may have retired between 15-4-2014 to 1-1-2017 or between 31-1-2017 till 31-1-2020. Then, we do know why the Government feels inhibited in initiating any action against them and proceeds to rely upon Rule 27(2)(b) of the Maharashtra Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1982."

Thus, directing the State to file a further compliance affidavit, Court observed-

"We do not know why 33 employees alone have been chosen for departmental inquiry and out of which 18 have been served with charge-sheet and as against others even the charge-sheet has not been prepared. Is the Department keen on taking any departmental action and measures at all is not clear. These 33 employees may not be high power officials but petty or junior level officials and we do not know their names and designations and why they were named as delinquents. The other Departments of the State have also taken some action but we do not think that the same is adequate."

Click here to download the Order


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