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P&H HC Rejects Haryana Govt's Plea To Quash Report That Indicted Officials For Harassing Whistleblower Officer

akanksha jain
30 Aug 2019 6:46 AM GMT
P&H HC Rejects Haryana Govts Plea To Quash Report That Indicted Officials For Harassing Whistleblower Officer
The HC said it doesn't have jurisdiction to adjudicate dispute between State and Centre.
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Almost six years after the Haryana government challenged Centre's inquiry report indicting it for victimising whistle-blower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has refused to hear State's petition saying it cannot hear any dispute between the Centre and the State.

Justice Arun Monga disposed of the petition citing Article 131 of the Constitution of India which vests Supreme Court with original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Union and any State.

The disposal on the ground of jurisdiction comes six years after the State of Haryana had sought quashing of inquiry report dated 08.12.2010 submitted by an Inquiry Committee constituted by Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

The inquiry report indicted the State and its officers for victimising Chaturvedi for blowing the lid off multi-crore scams such as illegal digging of canal in Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary in Kurukshetra, illegal use of public funds on a herbal park. The scams involved several politicians.

Chaturvedi was slapped with frivolous cases and charge-sheeted following which he moved a representation to then Union Cabinet Secretary leading to an inquiry committee looking into the matter. In 2011, it indicted the State and its bureaucrats.

Chaturvedi had also moved a memorial to the President following which the charge-sheet against him was revoked.

In year 2014, Haryana government moved the high court claiming that MoEF had acted un-constitutionally and outside its administrative scope while constituting such an Inquiry Committee in a matter which squarely falls within the State's domain.

It also rued certain adverse and "sweeping remarks/strictures" passed in the inquiry report against its senior officers and holding that the State government had illegally served a fabricated charge-sheet on Chaturvedi and was totally unjustified in suspending him from service.

During the pendency of the Haryana's petition, M L Rajvanshi, ex-CEO of Forest Development Agency had also moved the court seeking quashing of the inquiry report. Rajvanshi was also indicted in this report.

"Having gone through the writ petition filed by the State Government, inter alia, against the Union of India/MOEF, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, I am of the view that since the dispute is essentially between the Government of India and State Government, this Court lacks the jurisdiction in view of the Article 131 of the Constitution of India," said Justice Monga.

Rajvanshi's petition, however, remains.

Chaturvedi's recall plea

This written order in the petition comes after Chaturvedi's recall plea.

While Haryana's petition was shown as 'disposed of' on the high court website on August 13, the order was uploaded only a day ago.

Since the high court website showed the matter as disposed of, Chaturvedi moved an application urging that the order be recalled as the same has been passed ex-parte.

It is to be noted that on August 13, the high court Bar had struck work to protest the constitution of Haryana Administrative Tribunal. Not just litigants, even the lawyers were not allowed inside the court.

In the plea filed by Haryana government, the State had been seeking time to produce complete documents and also share the same with Chaturvedi.

The High Court was to also comply with the February 19, 2018 order of the Supreme Court directing it to decide the question of similarity of issues involved in the instant petition and another of Chaturvedi's plea moved in year 2012 wherein he had urged the apex court to order CBI probe as recommended by the MoEF in its inquiry report.

In his recall application, Chaturvedi said the high court could not have disposed of the matter without complying with the Supreme Court order.

"In fact, after the Supreme Court orders (dated 19.02.2018), no effective hearing of the instant writ petition took place and in fact, the order sheet dated 22.04.2019 clearly records adjournment on the ground that counsel of the answering respondent (Chaturvedi) is out of country, therefore, it is very surprising as to how without complying with the binding orders of the apex court, the petition was disposed of an even after 8 days of passing the disposal order, the answering respondent has not been able to find the same on the high court website or via application for the same".

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