Modi Govt Was Vindictive Towards Anti-Corruption Crusader Sanjiv Chaturvedi: Supreme Court
Chaturvedi, who had won the Magsaysay award for unearthing corruption scams at AIIMS, was given a rating of zero in his annual appraisal.
Upholding the Uttarakhand High Court’s ruling which had found that the central government had been “vindictive” towards Magsaysay award winner and anti-corruption officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the Supreme Court on February 1 reportedly imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 against the Narendra Modi-led government.
Per a report in the Business Standard, this cost is in addition of the one already imposed by the Uttarakhand High Court. The case pertains to 2015-16, when Chaturvedi — an Indian Forest Services officer working as the head of anti-corruption investigations in AIIMS as the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO)– was given a rating of zero in the 2015-16 annual appraisal by the Union Health Ministry. Chaturvedi had unearthed several corruption cases that involved senior officers, following which, he was given the said zero rating. In the previous five annual appraisals, he had been graded as outstanding and was recommended by the health ministry, reported Business Standard.
Chaturvedi was given the zero rating with the approval of Union Health Minister JP Nadda and the AIIMS director. The Business Standard report added that even when Nadda was only a Member of Parliament, he had asked for Chaturvedi’s removal and a for the corruption investigations to be stopped.
A previous report by The Wire had said that according to an RTI reply, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a call to the then-Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on August 23, 2014, to discuss the issue of removal of Chaturvedi from the post of the CVO at AIIMS. Chaturvedi had exposed at least 164 cases of corruption during his tenure, for which he was awarded the Magsaysay award.
In the 2015-16 appraisal, Chaturvedi was reportedly given a zero rating even for ‘wildlife investigations’ even though he had been working in AIIMS and was not responsible for anything related to wildlife. The Business Standard report further said that Chaturvedi had been transferred to Uttarakhand when he received the appraisal and hence filed a plea challenging the said rating. The High Court directed him to approach the the Nainital branch of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). Granting interim relief to Chaturvedi, the CAT said, “It is directed that if any matter related to the career progression of the applicant comes up for consideration before the terms of the impugned orders shall not be taken into account.”
While Chaturvedi was attending a mandatory training training in Finland, the proceedings were stayed by the CAT chairman, sitting singly on an application moved by the Centre. Reports suggest that the hearing was at the final stage after 13 hearings when the stay was ordered on July 27, 2018. Chaturvedi then moved the Uttarakhand high court again challenging the ex-parte order. The High Court had then held that the ex-parte interim orders were passed to stay the proceedings which were in violation of Section 24 of CAT Procedure Rules, 1987 as “neither the copy of stay application was served nor the petitioner was heard before passing the said order.”
The Modi government had then moved the Supreme Court against the Uttarakhand High Court’s order. The Supreme Court on February one dismissed the plea, saying, ” “The Chairman, being one amongst equals, could not have stayed proceedings pending before a larger Bench. We find no grounds to interfere with the reasoning of the High Court. The High Court rightly allowed the writ petition with costs,” reported the Business Standard.
Chaturvedi, in a letter to the president, had provided documentary evidence highlighting the role of Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) KV Chowdary in scuttling the corruption probes at AIIMS.