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Friday, December 8, 2023

Punjab shocker: Babu amends CM’s order and helps tainted officials to bounce back

In a bizarre case, an order issued by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann based on a cabinet decision, was overturned within 32 days by an order issued by a junior bureaucrat to relax conditions of re-employment for retired revenue officials in order to facilitate the entry of tainted babus.

CM Mann on May 20, 2022, ordered the recruitment of 1,766 retired ‘patwaris and kanungos’ in the state as the process to fill these vacant posts with regular field revenue officials could take a long time. The main condition was that anyone, who during service, ever faced a departmental inquiry or a police case, even if held not guilty, would not be considered for re-employment. Other conditions were that a re-employed official will be paid a salary of Rs 25,000 per month and will serve till the age of 64 years.

Aggrieved with this order of the CM, an influential section of retired revenue officials, though tainted, got an amended order on June 21, 2022, issued under the signatures of one Jagdish Lal, a superintendent of the consolidation branch of the office of Financial Commissioner, Revenue (FCR).

The fresh order unilaterally watered down the main condition of re-employment saying: “those who during their service faced a departmental inquiry or a police case but were not held guilty may also be appointed.” This amended order resulted in the recruitment of several tainted officials and even those who had pending criminal cases in courts against them.

This letter was circulated through the office of Punjab’s Director of Land Records, Jalandhar, and not directly by the FCR. The Director passed on the new instructions to all Deputy commissioners (DCs) in the state by putting the genuine memo and diary dispatch number of his office, mentioning that the order was in continuation of the previous order of the CM dated May 20, 2022. The amendment letter received from FCR did not carry a complete memo and diary dispatch number.

Interestingly, CM Mann again on October 4, 2022, passed another order with the Cabinet’s consent and amended two conditions while adding a new one. The salary was increased to Rs 35,000 per month, and the age limit was extended from 64 to 67 years.

The new condition added was that all re-employed officials will be posted in rural areas, and not in urban or suburban areas. This amended order, as is the practice, mentioned that it is in continuation of the previous order issued on May 20, 2022, vide memo and diary dispatch number. This letter from the CM did not mention the existence of the order dated June 21, 2022, which otherwise was necessary as per administrative rules.

Nishan Singh, a retired ‘kanungo,’ found that suddenly the Ferozepur Deputy Commissioner Amrit Singh recruited 24 retired revenue officials, 5 of them tainted. One of them, Chanan Singh, was facing trial in a case of forgery and bank fraud. He made a complaint but was shown the first amended order of June, according to which the tainted could also be appointed.

When Nishan Singh got a copy of the CM’s October order, he wrote several times to the government to clarify whether the suspicious June order was issued on the directions of Mann. No response was received.

Taking up the matter, contacted FCR KAP Sinha. A clarification was sought on whether a Cabinet decision could be amended or altered by a Superintendent of the consolidation branch. An inquiry was immediately ordered.

The superintendent of the consolidation branch, Jagdish Lal, who retired after 9 days of issuing the June order, told that all orders issued by the branch have to have the explicit approval of the incumbent FCR. And in June Anurag Aggarwal IAS was posted as the FCR.

As per administrative rules, a decision of the Cabinet can only be amended or altered, or withdrawn by an overriding decision of the Cabinet. But evidently in this case a ‘babu’ daringly overturned CM Mann’s order.

Meanwhile, DC Ferozepur relieved the 5-tainted revenue officials of their duties before she was transferred on January 14 in a minor administrative rejig.


(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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