Whistleblower Sanjiv Chaturvedi claims that despite the CBI indicting the accused, the central vigilance commissioner had let the officers off the hook.
New Delhi: Whistleblower Indian Forest Service officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi has in a letter to the president of India sought action against the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) K.V. Chowdary under Section 6 of CVC Act, 2003, for allegedly protecting certain senior officials of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) despite the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirming charges of corruption against them.
In the letter, Chaturvedi, who has been awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for exposing corruption in public office, has alleged that the CBI investigation reports in four major corruption cases had “confirmed instances of corruption and had recommended action against concerned officials but the cases were subsequently closed on the recommendations of CVC”.
Chaturvedi, who had earlier exposed corruption in AIIMS while being posted there as the chief vigilance officer and deputy secretary, has further charged that these cases were closed without the approval of the prescribed competent authority.
Citing various statutory rules, and placing before the president the various CBI reports and 87th report of Standing Parliamentary Committee to substantiate his point, the whistleblower accused Chowdary and his predecessor Pradeep Kumar of “encouraging/ protecting corrupt officers/corrupt practices and victimizing honest officers, though they were supposed to act otherwise”.
Stating that “the main objective of establishment of CVC was to punish corrupt officers and protect the honest ones,” he said, the documents, however, reveal that “both these Central Vigilance Commissioners have worked for exactly opposite objectives, undermining the very premises of anti-corruption regime”.
Pattern of overruling CBI reports
In all the cases, he said, “the common pattern is that they overruled CBI reports which had recommended action against corrupt officers and in each such case, the concerned officer had links with powerful politicians/ministers. In the process, they not only disregarded vital evidence including reports of their own technical wing but also straight away flouted provisions of its own vigilance manual and statutory rules of Central Government. There was such a hurry to close corruption cases disregarding CBI reports that even approval of competent disciplinary authority was not taken and cases were closed through fraudulent mentioning of wrong disciplinary authority.”
What is more, he said, is that in this process the accused officers “validated such thoroughly corrupt practices as direct supply/purchase from blood relatives by government employees: bypassing of tender/quotations and laid down procedures in General Financial Rules (GFR) through false declaration of propriety items: self-enquiry/enquiry by subordinates in case of highly placed corruption accused officers: extension of dubious and ineligible government officials (specifically, extension of an ITI qualified person in air conditioning and refrigeration at the cost of a BTech in Civil Engineer, to supervise Rs.7000 crore infrastructure project) and violation of Medical Council of India (MCI) regulations to allow enjoyment of hospitality by inspectors from private medical colleges.”
CVC acted as rubber stamp of health ministry
Further, he said, there were instances when the CBI had recommended action against corrupt officers and the CVC had acted as a rubber stamp of health ministry and exonerated the accused without an independent examination.
Demanding action against the CVC, Chaturvedi said, “if punitive as well as remedial actions are not taken immediately, these corrupt practices allowed and validated by K.V Chowdary and his predecessor would completely decimate whatever little probity is left [of] it the public life. In one such case, he has even allowed a Minister of State to overrule the decision of Cabinet Ministers and even usurp the powers of Prime Minister, in violation of provisions of All India Services (Discipline &Appeal) Rules 1969.”
Chaturvedi, who has fought protracted battles with the Centre in courts and the Central Administrative Tribunal, also wrote to the president that the CVC and his predecessor had left no stone unturned in finishing his professional career by allowing “tainted officials to make entries into (his) Appraisal Report, which was specifically forbidden as per own statutory instructions of CVC as there has been clear-cut indictment by CBI of such officials on the basis of inquiry report of the undersigned.”
First case about poor construction, irregular appointment and extension
Elaborating on the cases, he wrote: “The first such case was about various irregularities in engineering wing of AIIMS, in granting extension to then superintending engineer Mr. B.S Anand, collapse of various newly constructed buildings and transaction of properties by then superintending engineer Mr. B.S Anand and then Dy. Director (Administration), Mr. Vineet Chaudhary. The construction project was a massive one, of around 7000 crore rupees which also involved construction of country’s largest cancer hospital. Mr. Chaudhary is an IAS officer of 1982 batch of Himachal Pradesh cadre, who had earlier worked with Mr. J.P Nadda, as Health Secretary, when former was Health Minister in Himachal Pradesh in 2002-2003. In this case, CBI had registered a case against Chaudhary and Anand in January 2014 and in its investigation report submitted in December 2014 to Union Health Ministry, it had recommended action against Mr. Vineet Chaudhary.”
In the case of Anand, he wrote that the officer had a “basic degree of ITI in air-conditioning and refrigeration and even then he was given extension in violation of Section 30 of AIIMS Regulation Act 1999. In this matter, both Ghulam Nabi Azad and Harshvardhan (former union health ministers) had approved major penalty proceedings against Chaudhary. However, in July 2016 CVC advised closure of this case on recommendations of Minister of State in Union Health Ministry, who surprisingly overruled recommendation of earlier two cabinet ministers.”
Official indicted for issuing orders without tenders
Chaturvedi has further mentioned two CBI reports regarding the alleged role of Dr M.C Mishra, the then director of AIIMS.
In the first case – which involved supply orders from the firm owned by son and daughter-in-law of a store officer through false propriety certificate and without any tender at substantially higher rates than other centres of institute – CBI in its report submitted to the Union health ministry in October 2015, had confirmed corruption, indicting Dr Mishra and his subordinates and had recommended action.
However, this case was advised to be closed by CVC in June 2017, though its own technical wing had raised an objection about repeated purchase through the same propriety certificate.
Chaturvedi also pointed out that while according to the AIIMS Regulation 1999, the AIIMS governing body would be the final authority in case of a complaint against its director, this case was closed on the recommendations of the Union health ministry.
Surgery department did not excise corruption
In the second case relating to the surgery department, the CBI in its report submitted to the Union health ministry in December 2014 had pointed certain financial irregularities and had recommended further enquiry on part of CVO of the health ministry, which Chaturvedi alleged never took place. He said Dr Mishra was allowed to constitute an enquiry committee in March 2015 while he was himself the head of the surgery department. Incidentally, Chaturvedi also noted that as per media reports, the doctor had personally supervised the treatment of a Union minister who was admitted in AIIMS in 2014-15 after suffering problems in his bariatric surgery in a private hospital.
CVC overlooked production of fake bills by doctor
As for the fourth report, Chaturvedi said it was sent by Medical Council of India (MCI) in May 2013 on the basis of CBI investigation against Dr A.C. Amini, the then head of Department of Endocrinology, for accepting hospitality of private medical college and producing fake bills to MCI during the inspection of a private medical college in August 2010. This case was again advised to be closed by CVC in February 2015.
Chaturvedi charged that this was in violation of CVC’s own vigilance manual, according to which major penalty proceedings have to be initiated for such misconducts. This time, he said, the doctor in question was reportedly “looking after diabetes problem” of a woman Union minister.
Elaborating on the reason behind his approaching the president, he said that under Section 6 of CVC Act, 2003, the president had powers to suspend and order an enquiry against a central vigilance commissioner by a Supreme Court judge on allegations of corruption and misconduct.