Sanjiv Chaturvedi

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Sanjiv Chaturvedi
Born (1974-12-21) 21 December 1974 (age 45)
NationalityIndian
CitizenshipIndian
EducationB. Tech
Alma materMotilal Nehru National Institute of Technology[1]
OccupationBureaucrat (Indian Forest Service)
Years active2002-present
EmployerGovernment of India
OrganizationIndian Forest Service
Known forExposing corruption in Haryana Government and AIIMS, as Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve and for Conservation Research projects in Uttarakhand
AwardsRamon Magsaysay Award (2015)
S R Jindal Prize (2011)

Sanjiv Chaturvedi (born 21 December 1974) is an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer and currently posted as Conservator of Forest (Research) at Haldwani in Nainital District of Uttarakhand State. He also served as a Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) at AIIMS, New Delhi from 2012 to 2014, and before that he served in the Government of Haryana from 2005 to 2012.[2][3]

He is a whistleblower of the Haryana Forestry scam case which took place under the regime of Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Kiran Chaudhary and later on, in much bigger scams in health sector during his tenure as Chief Vigilance Officer of AIIMS. He took a number of major decisions in management of Corbett Tiger Reserve and undertook various Conservation research projects in state of Uttarakhand.

Indian Forest Service in Haryana[edit]

Sanjiv Chaturvedi is a 1995 batch Electrical Engineer from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (NIT Prayagraj) and a 2002 batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer from the Uttarakhand cadre.

Kurukshetra[edit]

His first posting was in Kurukshetra, where he registered an FIR against contractors on charges of large scale illicit tree felling and poaching hog deer in the nearby Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary. He was reprimanded by the Principal Secretary (Forests), and transferred to Fatehabad on 30 May 2007.[4][5] The contractors were linked with Hansi-Butana canal project, and were close to Chief Minister. In his detailed report, he mentioned serious violations of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and violation of various Supreme Court orders in under taking construction work inside a Wildlife Sanctuary, without taking statutory approvals. However, this action of Chaturvedi annoyed ruling establishment. Later on an NGO filed the case of these violations before Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee, which found all charges of violations as true and Haryana Government had to deposit a fine of 1 crore rupees.[6][7][8][9]

Fatehabad[edit]

In Fatehabad, Chaturvedi found that crores of rupees of public money were spent on a private land belonging to local Congress strongman Prahlad Singh Gillakhera, who later on became Chief Parliamentary Secretary of Forest, after winning MLA election in the name of a herbal park establishment project. Gilakhera was reported to be very close to then Haryana Forest Minister Ms. Kiran Chawdhry, as per media reports. Even letter of then PCCF, Haryana, to Chaturvedi in July 2007, noted that Forest Minister was 'annoyed' because of stopping of work of Herbal Park.[6][7][8][9]

Very soon, on 3 August 2007, the Chief Minister of Haryana, Hooda, suspended Chaturvedi without specifying any reason. On 14 September 2007, the Government issued a charge-sheet to dismiss him from service. However, on 3 January 2008, the suspension order was revoked by the President of India Pratibha Patil, who also passed strictures against the Hooda Government. Even after this, the Hooda Government did not withdraw the charge-sheet against Chaturvedi; its forest minister Kiran Choudhry returned the file for further comments.[5] The Hooda Government blocked his promotion by keeping the charge-sheet pending for more than three years.[10]

Soon after his suspension, the matter of corruption in Herbal Park establishment was brought before Supreme Court by NGO Ekta Parishad. After that, Haryana Government had to transfer management of this land to Harayana Forest Department under section 38 of Indian Forest Act, 1927, through a notification in Year 2009.[6][7][8][9]

Jhajjar[edit]

After his suspension order was revoked by the President in January 2008, Chaturvedi was assigned to a non-cadre post. After objections from the Central Administrative Tribunal, he was posted as a divisional forest officer (DFO) in Jhajjar, in January 2009. There, he exposed a fake plantation scam in February. Several crores of rupees of public money had been embezzled in this scam. The expose resulted in charge-sheets against 40 forest staffers and suspension of 10 staffers. Chaturvedi suspected that senior officers were involved in this multi-crore scam, and requested a vigilance probe.[5]

Subsequently, Chaturvedi started facing harassment in form of bogus cases. In April 2009, a case was registered against him for misuse of funds and bogus plantation in Jhajjar district – this was the same case which had exposed corruption in.[11] Later, the Hooda Government had to pay him compensation and concede in writing that he had been framed wrongly in this case.[5] Later on, OSD of Haryana Chief Minister was found to be involved in this case, as per enquiry conducted by a two-member enquiry committee of Central Government.[12]

Hisar[edit]

In August 2009, the Haryana Chief Minister's Office abruptly transferred Chaturvedi to Hisar (territorial) Division. In Hisar, Chaturvedi exposed yet another fake plantation scam. In January 2010, he sealed a plywood unit for corruption. In collusion with senior forest officers, this unit had paid just ₹26,000 (instead of ₹2,200,000) as license fee. In May 2010, when Chaturvedi went on official training in a foreign country for 18 days, the Chief Minister's Office declaraed his post vacant.[5] Chaturvedi was left without a post for a month, after which he was made DFO (Production) in the same Division.[13]

Haryana Forestry Scam case during Hooda regime[edit]

Haryana Forestry scam case is a multi-crore fake plantation scam allegedly involving Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kiran Chaudhary and others where government money was embezzled.[14] In 2009, this scam was exposed by the whistleblower, Sanjiv Chaturvedi,[15] an Indian Forest Service officer with then Government of Haryana, who filed a case in September 2012 to seek Supreme Court's instructions to CBI to investigate the case.[14] Earlier, Haryana Government had suspended him in 2007 for acting against illegal felling of trees and poaching in Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary, but his suspension was revoked by the President in 2008 and chargesheet was overturned in 2011 on an appeal against the decision of Haryana government.[14] An inquiry committee of the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) found Chaturvedi's allegations against Haryana government true, preferred an inquiry by Central Vigilance Commission and by CBI into dubious role of certain highly placed politicians and civil servants.[14][15] CBI, in its reply to CVC, found Chaturvedi's allegations against then Haryana Government creditable enough for an independent inquiry.[14] As per the rules, CBI can not undertake suo motu investigation, only state government, high court or supreme court can ask CBI for it.[14]

The matter was examined and the commission sought the opinion of the CBI on the same. The CBI has now confirmed that the issues raised by Sanjiv Chaturvedi are worthy of an independent probe. The CBI can take up the probe of such matters when notifications are issued u/ s 5& 6 of DSPE Act, 1946 by both the central and state governments

— Lila Chandran, Deputy Secretary of Central Vigilance Commission

Haryana government rejected MoEF's request in 2012 to initiate a CBI inquiry against the forestry scam.[14] Instead Haryana Government issued another charge sheet against Chaturvedi in August 2012, which too was overturned by the President of India.[14] Haryana administration filed a counter case in the High Court to seek cancellation of the presidential order favoring Chaturvedi and also against the formation of MoEF's earlier inquiry committee on this scam on the basis of ultra vires (beyond the powers of President and MoEF).[14] Chaturvedi filed a case in the Supreme Court in September 2012 asking for the CBI inquiry against this scam, where it is still pending (c. March 2018).[14]

Harassment and Presidential intervention[edit]

Chaturvedi reported facing severe harassment after exposing multiple scams. Several bogus criminal cases were filed against him, including theft of a Kachnar tree[9] and abetment to suicide (see Sanjeev Tomar case below).[13] During his tenure as an officer in Haryana, Chaturvedi was transferred 12 times.[4][16]

Alleging that he was being harassed by the Haryana State Government, Chaturvedi requested a Central Government deputation in 2010. He complained of harassment to the President Pratibha Patil, who referred his case to the Cabinet Secretariat. Acting on the directions of the Cabinet Secretariat, the Ministry of Environment and Forests constituted a two-member panel to study the accusations, in 2010. The Ministry's in-house inquiry found merit in Chaturvedi's allegations, and referred the case to CBI, whose preliminary analysis found the allegations worthy of investigation. The Ministry then referred the case to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), and recommended a CBI investigation. The Enquiry Committee Report indicted Chief Minister's Office, then Forest Minister and around half a dozen senior bureaucrats for their alleged involvement in the corruption cases exposed by Chaturvedi and his harassment.[17] The Ministry also confirmed the harassment of Chaturvedi and recommended quashing of cases against him. Accordingly, the charge-sheet against him was quashed by the President on 19 January 2011.[18]

The President's order indicted the Haryana State government for harassing Chaturvedi by blocking his promotion and transferring him.[10] This was based on the panel report which reprimanded minister Kiran Choudhry, the Chief Minister's Officer on Special Duty R. R. Beri as well as Prahalad Singh Gillakhera.[19] The Hooda Government rejected the Ministry's findings, and asked it to take a fresh look at the case. However, this demand was rejected by the Ministry.[18]

The Hooda Government refused to relieve Chaturvedi for Central deputation, but in May 2012, an order from the Ministry overruled the Hooda Government.[4] Subsequently, in March 2013, the Hooda Government constituted an inquiry committee against Chaturvedi, accusing him of inefficiency. The committee recommended penalizing Chaturvedi, including his termination from the service. In October 2013, the President of India Pranab Mukherjee quashed this chargesheet, again passing strictures against Government of Haryana.[20] After this, the Hooda Government tried to downgrade appraisal report of Chaturvedi, however, this order of Hooda Government was again reversed by President of India which restored his gradings as outstanding.[21]

Overall between 2008 and 2014, the President of India passed four orders in support of Chaturvedi and quashing Hooda Government's orders.[22]

Relieving From Haryana[edit]

In May 2012, Chaturvedi was selected by Central Government, to work as Deputy Secretary, in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, under Union Health Ministry, on deputation basis. However, Hooda Government of Haryana, refused to relieve him, even after repeated requests of Health Ministry and Ministry of Environment and Forest of Central Government. Chaturvedi again approached Chandigarh Bench of Central Administrative Tribunal, in June 2012, which ordered that the post of Deputy Secretary, will not be filled by any other officer till final orders of Tribunal. A few days later, on June 29, 2012, Central Government directly relieved Chaturvedi, overruling objections of Hooda Government, on this issue, which was a very unprecedented, where Central Government had overruled a State Government, ordering direct relieving. Hooda Government was citing pend-ency of Rampal Tomar (see below) case to prevent relieving of Chaturvedi.[23][24]

Supreme Court Case[edit]

In March 2012, Central Government, on the basis of report of CVC and CBI asked Haryana Government to issue notification for CBI investigation of the cases detected by the officer. However, Haryana Government refused to issue notification for CBI investigation.[25] After this, the officer moved himself directly a writ petition before Supreme Court for CBI investigation which issued notices to Central Government, CBI and Haryana Government in November 2012. In October 2014 CBI in its affidavit before Supreme Court expressed its willingness and support for CBI investigation into the cases exposed by the officer.[26] Meanwhile, in April 2014 Haryana Government moved a writ petition before Punjab & Haryana High Court against Central Government demanding the quashing of orders of constitution of two member inquiry committee and all subsequent orders.[27] Both these cases are still subjudice. In the hearing going on in the Supreme Court, of the corruption cases exposed by Chaturvedi, two Supreme Court judges have recused themselves, till now and hearing has entered into fifth year.[28]

In February 2018, Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered a fine of Rs. 50,000/- on Sanjiv Chaturvedi, saying that he had not filed reply to ongoing writ petition. This order was set aside by Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Deepak Misra on February 19, 2018.[29] Central Government in a significant affidavit before Punjab and Haryana High Court said that even when All India Services officers are working in State Governments, all the disciplinary powers with respect to them lies in Central Government.[30]

In August 2019, Punjab and Haryana High Court passed an order, that the case filed by Government of Haryana challenging inquiry ordered by Central Government, was not mainainable before it in view of Article 131 of Constitution of India, under which disputes between Central and State Governments an be heard only by Supreme Court, under its original jurisdiction. The court also noted that the case filed by Government of Haryana had similar issues as the one filed by Sanjiv Chaturvedi before Supreme Court in year 2012. This order came as a relief for Sanjiv Chaturvedi. [31][32][33]

Missing File from Chief Minister Office

Another controversy broke out in June 2018 when an official in Secretariat of Forest Branch of Haryana Government lodged a police complaint against Chief Minister, for disappearance of file noting and important documents, after the file was received back from Chief Minister Office. The file related to court proceedings regarding scams exposed by Chaturvedi and subsequent court proceedings in High Court and Supreme Court regarding CBI investigation of these scams. Haryana Government immediately transferred the Secretariat Official who had lodged complaint against Chief Minister.[34][35] Meanwhile, Chaturvedi threatened to approach the High Court if action is not taken against the culprits responsible for disappearance of important documents from file.[36] Later on it was also reported that despite opinion of Advocate General, for withdrawal of case against Chaturvedi in High Court, Haryana Government was contesting it for more than two years.[37]

Sanjeev Tomar case[edit]

In 2009, Sanjeev Tomar, a Haryana forest range officer, was found dead after initiation of anti-corruption proceedings against him. His father Rampal Singh Tomar initially told the police that Sanjeev had died due to other reasons. Later, he changed his statement and claimed that his son had committed suicide due to harassment by Chaturvedi and subsequent suspension.[38] According to the Jhajjar Superintendent of Police, Chaturvedi had nothing to do with suicide of Tomar, who was disturbed due to corruption and dowry cases against him.[39] Multiple special investigation teams (SIT) formed to probe the case gave a clean chit to Chaturvedi. According to the SIT reports, Sanjeev Tomar had committed suicide because of an anti-corruption inquiry against him and also because he was facing litigation from his wife; he had been living with another woman named Promila.[40]

In February 2015, the Punjab and Haryana High Court recommended formation of a new SIT to probe the allegations that Sanjeev Tomar had committed suicide due to harassment by Chaturvedi. This was based on a petition filed by the deceased's father, Rampal Singh Tomar. Chaturvedi moved in a review petition before the Court, challenging the orders to form an SIT.[41] Chaturvedi's counsel had argued that the case had already been investigated by four different SITs and reviewed by senior police officers, who had found no evidence of harassment. He stated that constituting a fresh SIT would amount to hounding the officer who had exposed several scams. In April 2015, the Court accepted the petition, and recalled its earlier order. The Court also dismissed the writ petition of Rampal Singh.[38]

Intelligence Bureau Report[edit]

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had prepared a report on threats and harassment to the officer. When the copy of this report was sought by him under RTI Act, intelligence bureau denied it on the ground that IB is an exempted organization. However, somehow the gist of the report was disclosed in which contentions of Chaturvedi were found to be true. Subsequently, Central Information Commission in a very detailed order in April 2016 slammed Intelligence Bureau and citing four extra ordinary presidential orders passed in his favor, asked them to disclose the report to Chaturvedi.[42] This decision of CIC was challenged by Intelligence Bureau in June 2016 before Delhi High Court which had granted stay and issued notices to the officer. The hearing was concluded in May 2017 and final judgment was passed in August 2017, in which Delhi High Court upheld the orders of CIC and dismissed the writ petition of Intelligence Bureau, thereby paving way for the access of the officer to the confidential IB report. The Court held that under provisions of RTI Act issues of corruption and human right violation are not exempt from disclosure even for organizations like IB which are otherwise exempted from disclosure provisions of RTI Act.[43][44]

AIIMS (Delhi) Scam whistle-blower case[edit]

On 29 June 2012, Chaturvedi was made the Deputy Secretary of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. He was given the charge of Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) at AIIMS. As a CVO, Chaturvedi took action in a very large number of cases which included action against a private chemist shop selling counterfeit medicines, financial irregularities in 3850 crore construction projects and particularly extension to head of engineering wing, corruption in recruitment, purchase of medical equipments, against the doctors who were making unauthorized foreign trips, in contracts to security companies, single bid tendering, corruption in computerisation purchases, treatment of pet dog of officers at institute cases of subletting, pension fund scam and even sexual harassment.[45][46][47][48][49] During his tenure, the police seized banned drugs worth 6 crores from a vehicle supplying drugs to an on-campus pharmacy owned by an Indian National Congress MLA. The then health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, signed two internal reports which rated Chaturvedi's work as a CVO as "outstanding".[16] Chaturvedi initiated actions in around 200 corruption cases during his stint as AIIMS CVO; punishment was imposed in 78 cases, chargesheet was issued in 87 cases and more than 20 cases were referred to CBI for criminal investigation. These cases included the ones against senior IAS officer Vineet Chawdhry, of Himachal Pradesh cadre, who had worked earlier as Deputy. Director (Administration) former Deputy Director (Administration) Shailesh Yadav, a senior IPS officer, many senior faculty members, former Registrar V.P. Gupta and former Chief Administrative Officer Attar Singh.[50][16][47]

Subsequently, on many investigations done by Chaturvedi, CBI registered cases and recommended action against Vineet Chawdhry. As per India Today investigative report of June 2017, J P Nadda, Union Health Minister was found to have hushed up investigation into what the report termed as 7000 crore scam, detailing CBI report and scathing reports of Parliamentary Committee.[51] Opposition parties on basis of this investigative report and documents mentioned in the report, accusing Nadda of links with senior IAS officer Vineet Chawdhry who had earlier worked with Nadda in Himachal Pradesh, .[52]

Similarly, in October 2015, CBI, on basis of enquiry done by Chaturvedi, found then AIIMS Director, Dr. M C Mishra, and certain other AIIMS officials including store officer guilty of involvement in corruption in purchase of medical items including disinfectants in trauma centre, on basis of wrong propriety certificate and recommended action against them to Health Ministry, as deemed fit.[53][54] Again, in January 2018 CBI registered criminal case under sections of forgery and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against certain AIIMS officials for corruption in purchase in Surgery Department, to favour particular firms, on basis of enquiry report sent by Chaturvedi as CVO to CBI in May 2014.[55] Earlier in September 2013, CBI had registered a criminal case on basis of enquiry done by Vigilance Cell of AIIMS, regarding large scale fake payments made in security wing of AIIMS and financial irregularities into security contract award to a private company.[46] However, it was found later on that all the major corruption cases exposed and being investigated by Chaturvedi, involving senior IAS, IPS officers, AIIMS Director and senior AIIMS officials were being hushed up after his removal and taking over of Health Ministry by J P Nadda.[56][57]

In August 2014, Chaturvedi was relieved from the charge of CVO.[58] On August 16, he wrote a letter to the new health minister Harsh Vardhan of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alleging that his removal from the CVO post was a result of campaign by corrupt officials. He was supported by AIIMS staff, who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister asking for his reinstatement. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held protests in his support. The media and the AAP alleged that the BJP leader JP Nadda was acting against Chaturvedi on behalf of Vineet Chaudhary, an IAS officer from his own state, Himachal Pradesh. As a CVO, Chaturvedi had accused Chaudhary of bending rules to give tenure extension to an engineer supervising works worth 3,700 crores. Nadda had reportedly started the proposal for removal of Chaturvedi with a letter, on which 20 signatures were added within 24 hours.[59] Chaturvedi had also accused two security contractor firms of serious violations, one of which was owned by the BJP Rajya Sabha MP RK Sinha.[16][60]

Harsh Vardhan stated that Chaturvedi had been removed because was not eligible for the CVO post, and the government had no malafide intention in the decision.[61][62] However, media reports brought out documents showing that not only J. P. Nadda had repeatedly written letters for removal of Chaturvedi but had also demanded halt of all corruption cases investigated by Chaturvedi. Media reports also showed documents regarding meeting of Nadda with then Health minister Dr. Harshvardhan for pressing this demand . Reportedly Nadda wrote four letters between May 2013 to June 2014, for removal of Chaturvedi and while his earlier letters were not acted upon, prompt action was taken with change of Government.[63][64][65]

Media reports also brought out records related to earlier attempts to remove Chaturvedi, in spite of fact that, Union Health Secretary as well as CVO of Health Ministry, in their report in May 2014, had termed his performance as 'exemplary' and integrity as 'absolute'. However, it was because of intervention of parliamentary Committee, which had taken prior commitment from Government regarding appointment of Chaturvedi as CVO, that he was saved. Prime Minister Office had also directed Cabinet Secretary for his protection, so that he should not be removed without matter being brought in Civil Services Board and Prime Minister office kept under information.[49][47][57]

After Chaturvedi's controversial removal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked Harsh Vardhan for a report on the case. In the resulting report, the Health Secretary Lov Verma argued that AIIMS did not have any independent post of CVO, and Chaturvedi had been given only additional charge as an "internal arrangement." The newspapers DNA such as The Economic Times alleged that several facts about Chaturvedi's appointment and removal were concealed from the Prime Minister in this report and that he was given main charge of CVO as per AIIMS order dated 07.07.2012 and not the Additional Charge as claimed by Health Secretary in report sent to Prime Minister.[59][66]

Subsequently, JP Nadda became the Health Minister in November 2014. Nadda's ministry attempted to re-write Chaturvedi's Appraisal Report, which had described his performance as outstanding. However, in June 2015, the Central Administrative Tribunal restrained Nadda from doing this.[67] In June 2015, Chaturvedi petitioned the Central Administrative Tribunal to grant him promotion to Director (selection grade), which he had been scheduled to receive in January, but which had been blocked due to his anti-corruption stance. Following a court order, Chaturvedi received his promotion with effect from 1 January.[2]

In August 2015, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare accused the Health Ministry of not taking any action against the corruption in AIIMS. It also criticized the replacement of the dedicated CVO post with a Ministry CVO.[68] The same month, Chaturvedi stated that he was disappointed with the Modi government for not taking any action in these corruption cases.[69]

By December 2015, all the tasks assigned to Chaturvedi at AIIMS had been withdrawn without mentioning any specific reasons by the Central Government, although he was being paid the full salary.[70] In July 2016, Chaturvedi filed an affidavit before the Delhi High Court, alleging that the Ministry had not taken any action against the accused in the pending AIIMS corruption cases exposed by him.[71] Despite having been stripped of his duties during the 2015–2016 fiscal year, a move that he challenged in the Supreme Court, Chaturvedi received an "unsatisfactory" performance evaluation.[72]

Support of AIIMS, Faculty Members, Students and Staff.

After removal of Chaturvedi, AIIMS Faculty Members protested and launched a signature campaign to bring him back. Around 250 faculty members and researchers wrote to Prime Minister Modi to bring him back as CVO. They also demanded inquiry into his removal.[73][74] Chaturvedi also got tremendous support from AIIMS Student Union and employees who similarly demanded his come back.[75][76]

Public Interest Litigation[edit]

In February 2015, the Delhi High Court issued notices to the Central Government and J.P Nadda, in response to a PIL filed by Prashant Bhushan demanding CBI investigation into all pending corruption cases and removal of Chaturvedi as CVO.[77] Delhi High Court has sought status report from CBI on the corruption cases exposed by the officer.[78] The matter is still subjudice before Delhi High Court.

In major setback to Central Government, in April 2018, Delhi High Court issued notices to Central Government, seeking their reply on wrong closure of corruption cases by Health Ministry headed by Mr. Nadda, while hearing this PIL.[79]

Conflict with Central Vigilance Commissioner[edit]

As per reports published in Wire and other publications, Chaturvedi wrote to President of India in July 2017 for suspension and inquiry by a Supreme Court judge against Central Vigilance Commissioner, Mr. K.V Chaudhary, under powers given to President in Section 6 of CVC Act, 2003, citing a number of CBI reports which had recommended action against certain highly placed officials and faculty members of AIIMS, on corruption charges but which where closed by Chaudhary, over ruling CBI. Chaturvedi further alleged that apart from over ruling CBI investigation reports and their recommendations, CVC also did not take approval of competent disciplinary authority while closing these cases.[80][81][82]

In response to RTI Application of Chaturvedi, regarding action taken on his complaint to President against CVC, Department of Personnel and Training (DoP&T) of Central Government which is administrative department of CVC, intimated that at present there are no guidelines to deal with complaints against CVC and the same is being framed and complaint would be processed once guidelines are framed. This response of Central Government assumed significance in view of controversy related to CBI Director and his investigation by CVC.[83][84]

In January 2019, again the Central Government reiterated same stand that guidelines to handle the complaint, are being framed and complaint will be processed only after guidelines are framed. This stand of Central Government drew very sharp criticism from main opposition party which alleged that the present Central Government is taking shelter behind technicalities to justify inaction against present CVC Mr. K.V Chauhdary.[85][86]

Zero Appraisal Report[edit]

Sanjiv Chaturvedi was awarded effectively zero grading in his Annual Performance Report (APAR) in the financial year 2015-16 by Mr. J.P Nadda, Union Health Minister and his sub-ordinate officers, in the same year in which Chaturvedi was conferred prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award. It was reported in media that all his previous Appraisal Reports were Outstanding and even Union Health Secretary had appreciated his performance as Exemplary in year 2014.[87] Prior to that, Central Government had already withdrawn all works from him, against which the officer had moved to Supreme Court, which had issued notices to Central Government in September 2016, admitting his appeal.[87] In March 2017, Intelligence Bureau in its report termed Chaturvedi as a 'diligent officer'.[88] Within 4 months of this Zero rating, BJP Government of Uttarakhand again gave him Outstanding grading for financial year 2016-17.[89] When Chaturvedi moved to Uttarakhand High Court in June 2017, against this zero rating, bench led by Chief Justice K.M Joseph, instead of directly entertaining his writ petition, relegated the case to Tribunal.[90] This order of Uttarakhand High Court was criticized in legal fraternity as Uttarakhand High Court had entertained service matter cases directly before this case.[91][92] Matter is now before Tribunal.

In a major development Central Administrative Tribunal(CAT) bench of Nainital, rejected the plea of Cabinet Secretary for removal of his name from the case related to zero appraisal report of Chaturvedi.[93]

In August 2018, a division bench of Uttarakhand High Court led by Chief Justice termed the attitude of Central Government towards the officer as 'vindictive' & imposed a cost of Rupees Twenty Five Thousand while quashing orders of Chairman, CAT, New Delhi wherein he had stayed proceedings of Nainital Circuit Bench of CAT on a transfer application filed by Central Government for transfer of case from Nainital Bench to New Delhi Bench regarding zero appraisal case of the officer.[94][95]

In February 2019, in a big setback to the Central Government, Supreme Court of India upheld the judgment of Uttarakhand High Court and imposed a further cost of Rupees Twenty Five Thousand on AIIMS. The Supreme Court laid down an important law point in the case that judicial powers of Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) are same as that of other members and sitting singly, he cannot stay the proceedings of division bench of the Tribunal and therefore, orders of Chairman CAT were unsustainable and without jurisdiction.[96][97]

Cost on Central Government and donation to PMNRF.[edit]

In June 2019, High Court of Uttarakhand issued notice to Union Health Secretary and Director, AIIMS on issue of non payment of cost of Rupees Twenty Five Thousand imposed by it in a case related to Appraisal Report of Officer in which High Court had imposed a cost of Rupees Twenty Five Thousand on Central Government and AIIMS, terming their attitude as 'vindictive' for officer[98].[99] The Central Government, paid this amount to Chaturvedi in July 2019, after issue of contempt notice[100].[101][102] However in August 2019, Chaturvedi donated this entire amount to Prime Miniser National Relief Fund (PMNRF). In the letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chaturvedi expressed surprise as to how public funds can be used in vindictive litigation. He requested Prime Minister to cretate a special fund for help of honest officers, undergoing similar harassment, to fund their legal expenses and to compensate them. [103][104][105]

Recusal by Judges[edit]

As per report published in reputed law web portal 'Livelaw' and some other credible publications, in April 2019, till this date, four judges of various courts have so far recused themselves from various cases of Chaturvedi. The Supreme Court judges Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice U.U Lalit, recused themselves from his case filed for investigation into Haryana Forestry Scam in which name of then Haryana Chief Minister had also figured, while a judge of Shimla Court, recused himself in April 2018, from a criminal defamation case filed against Chaturvedi by the then Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh, Mr. Vineet Chawdhary. In an order dated March 29, in 2019, Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal, Justice L. Narasimha Reddy, recused himself from all cases of Chaturvedi, citing "unfortunate developments' and terming it as 'a rare case'. Before that, he was issued contempt notice by High Court of Uttarakhand, for willful disobedience their order on a petition filed by Chaturvedi before High Court of Uttarakhand. This contempt proceeding was however, stayed by Supreme Court in March 2019.[106][107][108][109][110][111]

Involvement of Prime Minister Office[edit]

On January 10, 2018, the web magazine The Wire broke out a story, citing RTI documents that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself discussed the removal of Chaturvedi with the then Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan, on August 23, 2014. RTI documents showed that on August 23, 2014, the then Union Health Secretary Mr. Luv Verma had written a letter to the Principle Secretary to Prime Minister, mentioning that Prime Minister had a telephonic conversation with Union Health Minister on that day and therefore, a report is being sent for perusal of Prime Minister.[1] It was not clear as to what was the content of this conversation but after that, Chaturvedi was stripped off all the responsibilities and was awarded zero grading in Appraisal Report besides facing a number of litigations. After the telephonic conversation, Prime Minister Office sought comments/report from Health Ministry on the allegations of Chaturvedi but nothing followed. Earlier also in year 2013 Prime Minister Office had stepped in to resolve his case arising out of sharp differences between Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). [2] In February, 2019, he again wrote to Prime Minister Modi, requesting him to disclose details of his telephonic conversation with then Union Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan, after which, according to Chaturvedi his harassment and various litigation against him began.[112][113]

Campaign against Black Money and Corruption[edit]

In August 2017, Chaturvedi applied RTI Application to Prime Minister Office, on 16 points which included information on quantum of black money brought back from foreign countries. by Modi Government and the amount of such black money deposited into account of citizens. During parliamentary elections, it was a major electoral promise of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) to bring back black money from foreign countries and deposit Rs. 15 Lacs into account of every citizen. Chaturvedi also sought information on corruption complaints against serving central ministers of Modi Government, copy of inquiry report and action taken on these corruption complaints. In addition, he had also sought information on various flagship schemes of Modi Government. Initially, the Prime Minister Office refused to give information on black money saying that it does not come under the definition of information and regarding corruption complaints against central ministers, PMO said that it was generic information. However, in a major setback to Modi Government Central Information Commission (CIC) in its order passed on October 16, 2018, rejected all these contentions of Prime Minister Office and directed them to provide these information to Chaturvedi within 15 days.[114][115][116] However, in its response on November 12, the Prime Minister Office said that though it had received complaints against various Union Ministers from time to time and which were duly examined also, however, to identify, examine and categorize each of these complaints, maybe "cumbersome exercise" and such an exercise will "disproportionately divert the resources of the office" and hence, citing Section 7 (9) of RTI Act, 2005, the details were denied to Chaturvedi.[117][118] In the same, communication, Prime Minister Office also refused to divulge information about black money brought from abroad, saying that disclosure of this information would affect investigation of SIT into black money and hence, citing Section 8(1)(h) and Section 24 of RTI Act, which provides exemption from disclosure of information when investigation is pending and provides exemption to certain Intelligence Organizations from RTI Act, respectively, the information was denied to Chaturvedi.[119][120] This denial by PMO particularly on issue of black money created huge uproar with even ally of ruling Bhartiya Janta Party, namely, Shiv Sena criticizing the denial in an editorial written in their party's mouth piece 'Samna' saying that with this denial, mystery of black money has deepened further.[121] In an Interview with website Rediff, he termed the fight against corruption as second freedom struggle.[122] His struggle against corruption has been highlighted by various publications from time to time as a case study.[123][124]

In November 2018, Chaturvedi filed a complaint against Prime Minister Office before Central Information Commission under Section 18 of RTI Act for non compliance of its orders. The matter was heard by CIC in April 2019 and June 2019 and in order passed on June 18, CIC noted the submissions and concluded that ground taken by Prime Minister Office were not correct as far as not supplying the information related to corruption complaints against Union Ministers was concerned. This was a very significant order from transperany watchdog which paved the way for disclosure of corruption complaints against Union Ministers. However, CIC agreed on the issue of denial of information regarading investigation on black money, taken by the Prime Minister Office which had said that disclosure of this information would impede investigation and hence the same cannot be given under Setion 8(1)(h) of RTI Act.[125][126][127]

Criminal Defamation Case[edit]

A criminal defamation case was filed against Sanjiv Chaturvedi by Mr. Vineet Chawdhary, a senior IAS officer of 1982 batch of Himachal Pradesh cadre in April 2016 in a local court at Shimla, regarding a confidential letter sent by Chaturvedi in August 2014 to then Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh in which Chaturvedi had sent a list of pending departmental and CBI cases/investigations against Vineet Chawdhary. Chawdhary had earlier served as Dy. Director (Administration) in AIIMS, New Delhi from year 2010 to 2012, during which many complaints/allegations were leveled against him regarding financial irregularities and abuse of power. After the lower court issued summons, Chaturvedi approached Shimla High Court for quashing of proceedings on the ground that the information of pending cases was sent by him as part of his duty as Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of AIIMS and hence, as per provisions of Section 197 of CrPC Court could not have issued summons without sanction of prosecution from Central Government. He further claimed that all his investigations were validated by CBI and higher authorities and that Chawdhary had not obtained prior sanction before filing the case. However, Shimla High Court refused to intervene in order passed in April 2018. This order of High Court was challenged by Chaturveedi before Supreme Court, which in its order in May 2018, giving a big relief to Chaturvedi, quashed orders of Himachal Pradesh High Court, saying that it sans reason and asked it to re-hear the case and pass a reasoned order.[128][129] In another strange development, in April 2018, the lower court judge hearing the case, recused himself from the case citing personal reasons.[130]

Change to Uttarakhand Cadre[edit]

In October 2012, Chaturvedi had applied for change of his cadre from Haryana to Uttarakhand on the grounds of ‘extreme hardship’ including frequent transfers, suspension and false cases. After the approvals of both the State Government, Ministry of Environment and Forest also recommended for a cadre change in July, 2014, to the Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister. However, on 28 January 2015, ACC ordered to bring fresh NOC from both the State Governments. This order was challenged by the officer in Central Administrative Tribunal, which first stayed and then quashed this order in May, 2015, giving two months time to the ACC for passing order on Cadre Change. On 13 August 2015, the ACC led by the Prime Minister approved the Cadre Change in compliance with Tribunal orders.[131]

Invitation by Delhi Government[edit]

In 2015, the media reported that AAP was planning to appoint Chaturvedi as the chief of the Delhi anti-corruption bureau.[132] On 17 February 2015, and again on 28 February 2015, Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Cabinet Minister Prakash Javdekar, asking for deputation of Chaturvedi to Delhi, as an Officer on Special Duty. The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) directed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to give its assent to Chaturvedi's deputation to the Delhi Government.[133]

In October 2015, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, also gave consent and also Government of Uttarakhand, parent cadre, after which courts directed that Prime Minister led Appointments Committee of the Cabinet(ACC) to take a decision by 1 May 2016.[134] However, in a very strange development, Government of Uttarakhand suddenly withdrew its consent in January 2016, allegedly under pressure from Central Government. This consent was restored again in February–March 2016 by Government of Uttarakhand [135] and after which the courts again directed the ACC to decide the case expeditiously. However, in July, the Prime Minister led ACC rejected this proposal on the ground that the officer had not completed requisite cooling off period between two deputations. However, in letter written to Prime Minister that same month, Delhi Chief Minister Mr. Kejriwal had pointed out that as per rules, the criteria for a cooling off period is not applicable in case of appointment to personal staff.[136] He also requested Prime Minister to allow this deputation in the interest of people of Delhi.[137]

As Conservator of Forest in Uttarakhand[edit]

After completing his four-year tenure in AIIMS, New Delhi, Sanjiv Chaturvedi, joined his new cadre of Uttarakhand on 29.08.2016. There he got his due promotion as Conservator of Forest in November 2016.[138] However, the State Government was still confused on his posting and after a three month long wait, he was first ordered to be posted as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Government of Uttarakhand to look after the environmental cases of the State Government in National Green Tribunal (NGT).[139] However, within 24 hours the State Government changed its stand and cancelled the Delhi posting order in a press conference called by Chief Minister, Mr. Harish Rawat himself. It was also alleged that this U-turn was under the pressure of Central Government, as similar U-turn was taken by Uttarakhand Government one year back in 1st giving him NOC for Delhi Deputation in November 2015 and then suddenly withdrawing it in January 2016. In this Press Conference he publicly announced that Chaturvedi would be given a posting of his choice within Uttarakhand.[140] However, when Chaturvedi requested assignment for Anti-Corruption in written, he was shunted to an irrelevant post of Conservator of Forest (Research) on 12 May 2016.[141] This flip flop of the State Government, was criticized by political activist of the Uttarakhand alleging maltreatment of honest officers by the Uttarakhand Government.[142]

Research Projects[edit]

During his tenure, he initiated, for the first time, projects on impact of climate change on important species like flowering of Rhododenbron, change in tree line, and carbon sequestration of broad leaved species.[143] A research study to gather comprehensive data about various aspects of man-wildlife conflict, which was the most significant problem in hilly state of Uttarakhand was also initiated.[144] Process for patent of important medicinal species, by signing MoU, was also undertaken.[145] He also initiated conservation programme for fern species found in hilly state of Uttarakhand.[146] A separate project was also initiated for conservation and propagation of species found in Alpine Meadows of the state. [3]. Research wing has even initiated process of patent in collaboration with a Defense Ministry laboratory for products based on anti-oxidant/anti-diabetic properties of medicinal plants 'Kasani'.[147] He also initiated projects on research on 17 tree species who yield colours, tannin and gums, for employment generation.[148] Another experiment was launched to explore possibility of introduction of Chinnar species in Uttarakhand.[149] Another research got conducted under his supervision showed that existence of Sal (Shorea Robusta) was under threat because of impact of climate change on its seed fall and consequent regeneration.[150] Another initiative was taken for conservation of rare and threatened Himalayan plant species by making it mandatory, to plant at least 10% of such species in annual plantation programme across the entire State.[151]

Another project has been initiated for conservation of wild mushrooms growing in Devban area.[152] In November 2018, in a significant development Uttarakhand Government, approved proposal of Chaturvedi to form a research body for conservation of the flora of the Himalayan State, named as Center for Research, Development and Conservation for Himalayan Forestry Resources. As per media reports, the body, a first of its own for research, will run on funds from different companies under their corporate social responsibility, with headquarter at Hadwani.[153][154] In a major breakthrough, famous Tulip flowers were successfully grown and bloomed in Haldwani [155]

A project for conservation of various species of grass found in the state was also initiated.[156] A palmatum for conservation of various palm species was also established in Haldwani.[157] Efforts were made to conserve some historically important tree species of the State which were associated with great Saints.[158][159]

A project was started for an orchid species found in Gori Valley of the State of Uttarakhand, and to develop it for tourism purposes in the future. A rare species of macaque was also reported from the Pitthoragarh region of the State of Uttarakhand.[160][161] A study was got conducted on impact of climate change on Himalayan Pika, a mammal found in Himalayan region.[162]

Forest Department initiated project for plantation of Chinar Trees, in Uttarakhand, which is otherwise found in Kashmir. The project was initiated in Ranikhet area of Uttarakhand and in another project conservation of various type of climber species having medicinal value in State of Uttarakhand, was initiated. [163][164]

Champawat Forest Scam[edit]

In September 2017, Chaturvedi was ordered by Uttarakhand Government to inquire into various instances of irregularities into Champawat Forest Division. During his investigation Chaturvedi detected heavy illicit filling Chir pine trees [4] and a multi crore resin scam [5] where money earmarked for resin collection was diverted elsewhere. In the voluminous enquiry report consisting of around 2000 pages, he also pointed out various other irregularities and recommended suspension and vigilance enquiry against the divisional forest officer and his subordinate field staff. on the basis of his enquiry report State Government has initiated process to charge sheet them. [6]

As Arbitrator[edit]

In January 2018, Chandigarh Housing Board appointed him as Arbitrator in a dispute regarding constructions in a colony. In February 2019, final award was published by him as an Arbitrator and he left the entire Arbitration Fee for welfare of families of CRPF personnel killed in Pulawama Terror Attack.[165]

As Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve[edit]

Chaturvedi served as Director of Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve, in May–June 2019 for a brief period, which is oldest Triger Reserve of India situated in state of Uttarakhand, having one of the largest tiger population, numbering around 215. During this period, he got an interesting study conducted on conflict deaths of wild animals which showed an interesting phenomenon of Tigers attacking and killing elephants, for food purpose in around 13 cases monthly over a period of past five years. This study also showed that during this period nine tigers and five leopards were also killed in such conflicts among themselves.[166][167][168][169]

During his brief tenure, order was issued banning VIP treatment and safari, of functionaries of Executive and Judiciary, who used to seek it by use of official emblem and through influence of their official position.[170][171][172][173] A crackdown was also launched on fake websites running in the name of Corbett Tiger Reserve and legal notices were issued to around fifteen of them for closure citing violation of Copyright Act, IT Act and provisions of Indian Penal code.[174][175][176][177] Steps were taken to make booking hassle free for ordinary tourists, to remove problems related to online booking, for stopping nigh stay in core zone of reserve and other issues related to Gypsy rides.[178][179] A new zone of Tiger Reserve was proposed to be opened for Tourists and also beautiful portions of Ram Ganga river flowing through the reserve.[180] Proposal was sent for complete use of Tourism revenue from tiger reserve for welfare of local people as ordered in guidelines issued by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and also for sharing of cess to be imposed on nearby hotels and resorts for the purpose.[181][182] A fossil museum was proposed to be established in view of significant discovery of elephant fossil in this Tiger Reserve which according to experts dated back to a 2 million year old period and was first of such discovery in Kumau Shivaliks.[183]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Two medals in the subjects of "People and Forest" and "Biodiversity and Wildlife Management", from the then President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam in August, 2005 after completion of training at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, Dehradun.
  • Manjunath Shanmugam Integrity Award (2009), for his work in Haryana[184]
  • S R Jindal Prize in 2011 for "Crusade against Corruption" with a cash prize of ₹10 Lakhs, for his efforts in exposing corruption in high places.[185]
  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership (2015): Chaturvedi was recognized for "his exemplary integrity, courage and tenacity in uncompromisingly exposing and painstakingly investigating corruption in public office, and his resolute crafting of program and system improvements to ensure that government honorably serves the people of India."[186]

Donation of Magsaysay Award Prize

Chaturvedi donated his $30,000 Magsaysay Award cash to AIIMS for treatment of poor patients.[187] However, AIIMS returned the cheque subsequently in November 2015, after which he issued a fresh check in the name of Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF), with a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing J.P Nadda of being biased against him.[188] Initially Prime Minister Office rejected the donation, stating that it cannot accept funds with conditions. Later, the donation was accepted after Chaturvedi clarified that he had not imposed any conditions.[189]

Chaturvedi has been invited by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (Hyderabad), National Administrative Academy (Mussourie), and National Forest Academy (Dehradun) to deliver lectures to senior officers and probationers on anti-corruption strategies.[190]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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