Exclusive: The Saga Of Narendra Modi’s Vindictiveness Against a Bureaucrat Who Wants to Fight Corruption
My mistake was that I took Modi's 'Na Khaunga Na Khane Dunga‘ slogan at face value: Sanjiv Chaturvedi
“The attitude of the respondents towards petitioner is prima facie vindictive,” held the Uttarakhand High Court. The Petitioner: Indian Forest Service Officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi. The Respondent: The Narendra Modi Government. Chaturvedi’s crime: fighting corruption.
The Central Deputation
Chaturvedi, a Uttarakhand cadre officer (originally Haryana cadre) was on central deputation and appointed as Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, from June 2012-August 2014. During his tenure at the hospital, he had initiated action in almost 165 cases of corruption, reports suggest.
According to a RTI reply, Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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, when the controversy related to corruption cases, exposed by the whistleblower officer, was at its peak. Highly placed sources told NewsCentral24x7 that while the exact communication that took place between Modi and Harsh Vardhan is not known, the turn of events indicates the prime minister’s stand on the issue.
While he was removed from the post of CVO in August 2014, Economic Times reported that the last of the tasks assigned to him — that of booking guest houses — were withdrawn in December 2015. The officer wrote to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha after he was rendered jobless saying that “this situation is the result of lawful actions against a powerful nexus of corrupt politicians-bureaucrats about which your esteemed office is very well aware.” He continued drawing a salary from AIIMS till June 2016.
In September 2014, Chaturvedi wrote a note to the PMO underlining all the details related to the corruption cases exposed by him at AIIMS. He even enclosed letters written by JP Nadda, in his capacity as a Rajya Sabha MP, seeking his removal and the closure of corruption cases initiated by him. In November 2014, Nadda replaced Harsh Vardhan as the health minister — a move that illustrates Modi’s stance on this matter.
In February 2015, Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Health Ministry, Health Minister Nadda and AIIMS on a plea seeking CBI inquiry on several cases of corruption and irregularities unearthed by Chaturvedi at AIIMS. The PIL, filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), through advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was then a member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), underlined that the cases were closed illegally by the Union Health Ministry and sought a revival.
The Modi government alleged in the court that the NGO was being “used as a proxy litigant” by Chaturvedi to raise an “agenda of alleged corruption in AIIMS”.
The APAR Issue
Chaturvedi was awarded “zero grading” in his Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) for 2015-16 by AIIMS. He approached the CAT for quashing the adverse entries made into his appraisal report.
The Nainital bench of CAT had been hearing the case since July 2017. However, the proceedings were stayed by the CAT chairman, sitting singly on an application moved by the Centre, while Chaturvedi was away to Finland for mandatory training. Reports suggest that the hearing was at the final stage after 13 hearings when the stay was ordered on July 27, 2018.
Uttarakhand High Court
Chaturvedi was forced to move the Uttarakhand High Court as the stay was ordered. While announcing the judgement on August 21, 2018 in favour of Chaturvedi, a bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari had said, “The attitude of the respondents towards petitioner is prima facie vindictive.” Besides slamming the CAT chairman, the court also asked the Modi government to furnish Rs 25,000.
During the hearing, Chaturvedi underlined that 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”. Moreover, he noted that “in further violation of Section 24, the said interim order was made for a period of six weeks while the rules mandated it only for 14 days.”
The Modi government has moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Uttarakhand High Court. In its petition, the Centre stated that it was not granted an opportunity to file a reply in the High Court and “consequently the principle of natural justice has been violated”.
“The ASG was present during every hearing in the Uttarakhand High Court. Nobody stopped the Centre from filing a reply, so the argument is not valid,” sources with authoritative information about the matter said.
The matter will be heard next on December 4, 2018.
Chaturvedi has also filed an application in the apex court seeking initiation of “appropriate criminal proceeding” against AIIMS for perjury under Section 340 of CrPC and Section 193 of IPC for “deliberately and willfully making false statements” in the court.
Black Money Issue
On August 2017, Chaturvedi filed a RTI application asking the PMO to provide information regarding the quantum of black money brought back from abroad since June 1, 2014 and information related to the deposition of black money brought from abroad into the accounts of the citizens of the country.
In October 2017, the PMO refused to share details on the quantum of black money brought back from abroad citing that “the query was not covered under Section 2(f) of the transparency law that defines information”.
Chaturvedi moved the Central Information Commission (CIC) which ordered the PMO to provide information within 15 days on October 16, 2018. However, the PMO refused to comply with the orders and said that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has already been formed on the black money issue and its investigation is underway and “disclosure of all the actions/effort undertaken by the government will impede the whole process of investigation”.
Chaturvedi has thereafter filed a complaint under section 18 of RTI Act, 2005 against Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), PMO for non-compliance of the CIC order on November 14, 2018. He underlined that the new grounds for denial of information cited by the PMO is “not sustainable in law”.
The IFoS officer has requested the commission to direct the CPIO to provide all the information in compliance with its earlier order, to initiate action against concerned CPIO/deemed CPIO under Section 19(8)(b) of RTI Act for deliberate delay/defiance in providing information and to order appropriate compensation to the applicant under Section 20 of RTI Act, 2005, on account of detriment /harassment undergone in the process.
Interestingly, Chaturvedi was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2015. “PMO didn’t support (my) fight against corruption,” Chaturvedi told NDTV, soon after the Magsaysay Foundation announced the award. He added, “My mistake was (that) while fighting graft, I took (Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s) ‘Na Khaunga Na Khane Dunga‘ (won’t be corrupt, won’t allow others to be corrupt) slogan at face value.”