4 April 2023 4:00 AM GMT
The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday ordered the government to allow senior IFS officer Rajiv Bhartari to take over as the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest/ Head of Forest Force (PCCF/HoFF). He was earlier allegedly transferred merely on the basis of a note prepared by the Minister of Forest.While granting relief, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Alok...
The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday ordered the government to allow senior IFS officer Rajiv Bhartari to take over as the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest/ Head of Forest Force (PCCF/HoFF).
He was earlier allegedly transferred merely on the basis of a note prepared by the Minister of Forest.
While granting relief, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Alok Kumar Verma observed:
“Pertinently, even after the petitioner was transferred out and respondent No. 4 [the current PCCF] has been brought-in as PCCF/HoFF, the matter was not placed before the CSB for post facto approval. Merely because the Minister concerned is one of the members of the CSB that itself does not authorize him to unilaterally take a decision to transfer the petitioner in the manner that he did.”
Bhartari, a 1986 batch IFS officer was promoted to the post of PCCF/ HoFF and he took the charge on January 1, 2021. Subsequently, by an order dated November 25, 2021, he was transferred to the post of Chairman, Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board, which is normally occupied by a Joint Secretary Level Officer. Thus, being aggrieved, he challenged the transfer order before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).
Bhartari's counsel submitted that the transfer was ordered before the minimum prescribed tenure of 2 years by violating the Rule 2(a)(3) of IFS (Cadre) Amendment Rules, 2014. It was further contended that his transfer was made without getting the recommendation of the Civil Services Board (CSB) by violating Rule 2(a)(5) of the IFS (Cadre) Amendment Rules, 2014.
Significantly, the Tribunal while quashing the impugned transfer order had observed:
“Except to assertion in the pleading, nothing is on record to show that applicant career was blemish or any charge sheet had been served upon him at the time of impugned transfer order. If for the sake of argument this fact that applicant was not performing his duty very well on the post of PCCF (HOFF) is taken into consideration, then also at least procedure prescribed for transfer should have been followed.”
The CAT had directed the government to reinstate him as PCCF/HoFF.
Case before High Court
Bhartari had to approach the High Court as despite the direction issued by the Tribunal on quashing of his transfer order and directing his restoration in the said position, the respondents did not comply with the order.
The petitioner sought a direction to restore him to the post with immediate effect, as directed by the Tribunal
It was highlighted that Bhartari is due to retire on April 30 and thus, it is essential for him and his reputation that he is restored to the position as PCCF/HoFF forthwith without any unnecessary delay.
After going through the appointment order of respondent no. 4, the Court noted that the same specifically makes it clear that his appointment to the post of PCCF/HoFF is subject to the order passed in this writ petition.
The Court also noted the findings of the CAT that Bhartari’s transfer was merely on the basis of a note prepared by the concerned Minister without following the procedure of placing the matter with regard to the transfer of the petitioner before CSB.
“Looking to the fact that the Tribunal has found, on the basis of the record, that the transfer of the petitioner was made merely on the basis of a Note prepared by the concerned Minister and without following the statutory procedure, we are of the view that the order of the Tribunal dated 24.02.2023 should be implemented forthwith,” the Court ordered.
It directed Bhartari to be restored to the said post forthwith, divesting the respondent no. 4 of his duties as the PCCF/HoFF.
“He shall be permitted to take-over charge at 10:00 AM tomorrow i.e. on 04.04.2023," the Court added.
However, it was submitted for the respondent no. 4 that a charge-sheet making serious allegations against the petitioner has been issued in the meantime.
The Court, therefore, restrained Bhartari from taking any decision on any matter concerning the charge-sheet issued to him, and he was ordered not to deal with any file or matter relating to the charge-sheet.
Case Title: Rajiv Bhartari v. Union of India & Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Utt) 5
Case No: WPSB No. 98 of 2022
Date of Order: April 3, 2023
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr. Abhijay Negi & Ms. Singdha Tiwari, Advocates
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. Karan Anand, Standing Counsel for the Union of India; Mr. S.N. Babulkar, Advocate General, Mr. C.S. Rawat, Chief Standing Counsel & Mr. Pradeep Joshi, Additional Chief Standing Counsel for the State of Uttarakhand; Mr. Rahul Gupta, Mr. Aman Rab & Mr. Shiv Pande, advocates for respondent No. 4.
Click Here To Read/Download Order