Uttarakhand HC issues notice to Centre, Trivendra Rawat govt over discrepancies in appointing SSC member


Express News Service

DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand high court on Thursday issued notices to the Centre through the secretary, Department of Personnel Training, state government, and two others while hearing a petition of Magsaysay Award recipient India Forest Services officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi alleging discrimination against him in the selection process of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC).

The notices were issued by a division bench comprising Chief Justice RS Chauhan and justice Alok Verma. 

The petitioner alleged that his records including his date of birth were forged under a criminal conspiracy to debar him from the selection process of the members of the Staff Selection Commission while another person was appointed without meeting the eligibility criteria. 

The commission is one of the largest recruiters for a number of public posts in the country. 

At present Chaturvedi is posted as the chief conservator of forests in the research wing of the Uttarakhand forest department in Haldwani city. 

The matter goes back almost a year back when an advertisement was issued by the Department of Personnel Training (DoPT) in March 2020. The deadline for the appointment was March 23, 2020. 

The Magsaysay Award recipient of year 2015 and 2002 batch IFS officer who fulfilled all the eligibility conditions for the said post including having the pay scale in level 14, age limit, qualification, experience, vigilance clearance, cadre clearance, outstanding service record, unblemished service record sans any kind of penalty, adequate experience in administration, vigilance, establishment, and financial matters sent his application to his Cadre Controlling Authority which happens to be the Uttarakhand government.

The said application was duly examined by the government of Uttarakhand and with a verification statement about the correctness of the same, they granted an NOC/concurrence and forwarded the same on March 19, 2020, to the secretary, DoPT. 

The said letter was sent through speed post and was received in the office of the secretary, DoPT on March 20, 2020, three days before the deadline. 

In July 2020, a meeting was held in which the officer’s application was declined on grounds that his application was received after the deadline which was set March 23, 2020, and his PG Diploma in Forestry from Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, Dehradun was deemed as unacceptable. 

The appointment Committee in its meeting held on July 10, 2020, had shortlisted five candidates for interview and finally, the name of Ashok Kumar was approved by the Appointment Committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The petitioner stated that the sequence of events clearly show that his records and documents were forged/ manipulated under an alleged criminal conspiracy to show the receipt of the petitioner’s application into the office of secretary, DoPT after the last date.

This prima facie constitutes offence under relevant sections of IPC. 

“The predetermined nature is further evident from the fact that despite categorical notification issued by Forest Research Institute (FRI), which is one of the most prestigious organizations under Central Government, that ‘AIGNFA Diploma to be treated equivalent to M.Sc. (Forestry) which was verified by government of Uttarakhand also, Respondent No. 1 (Secretary, DoPT), rejected the case of Petitioner on this patently illegal ground,” said the petition. 

Following this, Chaturvedi had filed repeated RTI application and reminders explicitly seeking documents regarding receipt of the letter dated March 19, 2020 sent by the government of Uttarakhand to the secretary of DoPT but the same had not been supplied till date. 

Stating that the Staff Selection Commission is the largest recruitment agency of the country and in the past also, there have been major controversies regarding appointment, extension and re-appointment of then Chairman, and recruitment matters which had to be referred for CBI investigation, the petitioner said, “Again, it is very evident that if Member of the Commission, which is the recruiter for such large number of public posts, is appointed on the basis of such a vitiated selection process, it will naturally lead to similar kind of recruits in future having very adverse consequences for the future of youth and in the quality and deliver of public services to ordinary citizens.”

Later, on September 15, 2020, appointment orders of Ashok Kumar as a member of the SSC were issued.

The petitioner alleged that Kumar, who was on deputation to Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd. New Delhi (DFCCIL) till December 2019, had not fulfilled the eligibility criteria of mandatory cooling-off period of 3 years for the appointment as a member of the SSC.

“Under these conditions, it is not clear as to how without fulfilling the requisite cooling-off period, his parent department not only gave cadre clearance but also forwarded his name for the said position. It is equally surprising and in fact, points out towards a predetermined agenda as to how waving off of the cooling-off period of a particular candidate could have been anticipated along with approval for selection in advance. It is further submitted that file noting do not reveal any reasons, for waving off of the cooling-off period of Respondent no. 5 (Ashok Kumar),” the petition added. 

The petition further stated that in year 2016, in the case of Chaturvedi, similar request for waving off of the cooling-off period, was rejected by the secretary, DoPT despite clear recommendation from government of Uttarakhand in February 2016 and Ministry of Environment and Forest in November 2015. 

He also gave examples of many other such cases adding that this clearly reflects arbitrariness, discrimination and abuse of power to favour pliable civil servant, to achieve nefarious ends.

“The applications/proposals of the Petitioner for similar deputations in the institution of Lokpal and regarding consideration for empanelment at the level of Joint Secretary, have also been kept pending for a long time, without any decision, which indicates ulterior motives/ subjective considerations for blocking all prospects of carrier progression of Petitioner, in a predetermined manner. This may not only be inimical to professional carrier prospects of Petitioner but would also stigmatize his professional reputation, for future assignments,” said Chaturvedi in the petition.

The officer also mentioned how the Uttarakhand High Court had already observed in an order dated August 21, 2018, that the attitude of the central government and its instrumentalities is ‘prima facie vindictive’ towards the petitioner and had imposed a fine of Rs. 25000, which was not only upheld by the Supreme Court with further cost of Rs. 25000.

“All this vindictiveness was purely a result of lawful actions of the petitioner against the corruption of powers that be, during his earlier tenure as Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), AIIMS, for which he has already been made to pay a heavy price,” mentioned the officer in his plea.

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