Can a minister, already in the eye of a storm over the massive coal blocks allocation scam, continue to defy official agencies such as the CBI, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) just to protect one individual?
If you are Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, apparently, you can. There is now clinching evidence that Jaiswal has given five ad hoc extensions to the Chairman-cum-Managing Director (CMD) of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL), DC Garg, who faces accusations of corrupt practices. WCL is a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd, the country’s monopoly producer of coal.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been seeking, through top-secret letters since March 2010, the coal ministry’s permission to investigate a criminal case against a joint secretary-level officer.
In one of the letters to the coal secretary, it said: “Kindly find enclosed herewith a CBI report on misconduct committed by the officers of WCL in respect of the contract awarded to M/s Shree Sai Construction for construction of Motaghat Nalla.”
WCL’s CMD was also alleged to be a party to showing undue favours to the contractors and is a joint secretary-level officer – which means government approval is required for any probe into allegations. Repeated reminders from the CBI to the ministry for sanction were of no use.
Interestingly, while the ministry sat over the CBI request, the investigative agency registered 17 cases of bribery, criminal conspiracy, forgery of documents, criminal misconduct, etc, against officials lower down the line.
Even as CBI and CVC kept writing letters to the ministry, the coal ministry bought time by asking SK Gupta, Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), WCL, to investigate the allegations even though they involved his own boss (Garg). But Gupta turned out to be upright, and sent his report, dated 31 January 2011, to the ministry’s Secretary and the ministry’s own CVO Bhalla.
The report’s covering note sought protection from victimisation: “It was directed to examine the roles of various officers who had dealt with the case during the period from the time of detection of submission of fake bank guarantees until final decision was taken on the issue and in the report there are allegations and observations based on facts arising upon the board level officials, including CMD, WCL. It is, therefore, requested to please ensure protection against victimisation to myself and to Manoj Mishra, Dy. Manager (Survey) Vigilance who had investigated the case under CVC circular No 16/306 dated 23.03.2006 and during writing of my ACRs (annual confidential reports).” (See document 1)
On 5 September 2011, the CVC reminded AK Bhalla, Joint Secretary in the Coal Ministry, that it had sought the “initiation of RDA for major penalty against Shri DC Garg and others in the case pertaining to ministry’s F No 13022/9/2010-Vig.” In view of this, it had called for denying Garg vigilance clearance for appointment as CMD of Coal India, which was then without a full-time head. (See document 2)
But far from doing this, Jaiswal and his ministry went on giving extensions to Garg from 1 May 2012 till date. One such “most-immediate” notification was issued by S Ashraf, Deputy Secretary in the ministry. It reads: “I am directed to say that the Minister of Coal has approved the proposal for extension of tenure of Shri DC Garg, CMD, WCL….” The fifth such notification was issued on 29 April 2013, for continued extension beyond 1 May 2013.
These last-minute notifications apparently go against the note the DoPT sent to ministries in July 2012. The department wrote to all secretaries in all ministries that extensions beyond the planned tenure cannot be given unless cleared by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet/competent authority.
DoPT Secretary PK Misra told secretaries in a letter dated 3 July 2012 that in case they want to seek extensions for any officer beyond the approved tenure, they have to give DoPT at least two months’ advance notice.
It deprecated the efforts of ministries to send such requests at the “eleventh hour, leaving no time for examining and obtaining the orders of the Appointments Committee of Cabinet/competent authority.” (See document 3)
On 9 July this year, the DoPT, now fed up with the Coal Minister’s efforts to continue giving extensions to the WCL CMD, directed the ministry to immediately find a replacement for Garg.
Undersecretary Virender Singh of the DoPT wrote: “..the Competent Authority has observed that the Ministry of Coal is seeking extension for Shri DC Garg continuously though the CVC has not given clearance. In view of the above, the Competent Authority has directed the Ministry of Coal to identify a senior officer in the place of Shri DC Garg as Acting CMD, WCL.” (See document 4)
Is Jaiswal’s ability to protect Garg finally over? The surprise is that he could defy the authorities for 15 months.
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Updated Date: Aug 01, 2013 15:32:02 IST