#ThrowbackFriday: How the LG intervenes when honest officers fight corruption

Delhi Cabinet, in its meeting on Friday, chaired by the Chief Minister Mr Arvind Kejriwal, passed the following two important resolutions  :
1)      The Cabinet, with deep concern took note of the sudden, abrupt and unexplained manner in which Mr Vijay Kumar, the VAT Commissioner of Delhi, was relieved of his duty and was transferred out of Delhi by the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor.
Mr Kumar, as VAT Commissioner, took several important and crucial steps to prevent large scale tax theft and began a crack-down against organized tax evasion syndicates.
He had raided a well-connected trader in Old Delhi, an international food chain and a politically powerful dealer of automobiles. The last VAT raid under his leadership was on the night of 30th September.
In this raid, as many as 200 fraudulent companies that existed only on paper, were discovered. These companies have been found to be involved in massive and organized tax evasions. An international hawala dealer, who is wanted by the Interpol, is suspected to be behind this well-oiled network of companies. Details of this case have also been shared with the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate.
However, within a few days of this successful and decisive raid, Mr Kumar was unceremoniously relieved of the charge of VAT Commissioner. Records show that in the last 23 years, since GNCTD came into existence, never before had any LG directly relieved an officer. Clearly, there ought to be extremely compelling reasons which made Hon’ble LG to take such an extraordinary and unprecedented step.

Hon’ble LG relieved Mr Kumar without consulting the elected government. Unilateralism is one thing. Acting outside the remit of one’s own powers is another. It requires special mention here that Hon’ble LG does not have the powers to relieve officers. It is the elected executive, which alone has the power to do so. Therefore, such action on the part of Hon’ble LG was also an illegal and invalid exercise of power.

Why was he suddenly relieved by Hon’ble LG keeping the Chief Minister also in dark? This is not a transfer. This is shunting out of an officer who was fighting against corruption and against deeply entrenched vested interests.
The public perception that this transfer was manipulated by extraneous forces is fast gaining ground. It is now being talked about in the trader community that if any VAT officer dares to act against tax evaders then he will have to pay a heavy price. Vested interests can prevail upon the powers that be and get honest officers transferred is the general feeling. An honest and transparent government cannot remain oblivious of popular perceptions and disregard the public mood. This government cannot allow the vested interests, however powerful that they be, to call shots.

In view of the above, with all due respect, the Cabinet therefore seeks response to the following questions from Hon’ble LG:

I)       What were those compelling circumstances which forced Hon’ble LG to take such an extraordinary step?
II)    Is there a connection between the raids conducted by Sh Vijay Kumar and his abrupt relieving?
III) Is it true that Hon’ble LG summoned Sh Vijay Kumar after passing his relieving order and threatened him to leave Delhi immediately?

IV) Did Hon’ble LG receive written or oral instructions from PMO or MHA to relieve Sh Vijay Kumar?

In the wake of Mr Kumar’s transfer, GNCTD recommended the name of another  IAS officer as the new VAT Commissioner, who is known to be a very diligent, tough and hard-working officer. Besides, this government’s reason to pick the replacement of Mr Kumar was also his proficiency in Information Technology and his knowledge of data analytics and information systems which would have help him in digitalizing the VAT Department and augmenting its IT systems. The name was recommended by Civil Services Board & was endorsed by the Deputy Chief Minister & Chief Minister.

However, to the government’s utter dismay, Hon’ble LG even refused to accept the new name for VAT Commissioner. The ground given was that he is junior for this post. However, on closer examination even this premise does not hold good. There are umpteen examples where a person one level junior had been appointed on a senior post not only in Delhi but in several other state governments as well. During President’s Rule last year in Delhi, Hon’ble LG himself appointed so many junior officers on senior posts.

Some of these cases show that officers who were 2 levels junior were also appointed to that post.

So, if Hon’ble LG could himself post so many junior officers to senior posts, then why is he raising objections now? In fact the officer, who is presently posted as Secretary to LG, is also a junior officer for the post that he is holding.

With all humility, the Cabinet would urge Hon’ble LG to state the actual reasons for his rejection.

Tax collection is the life blood of any government. The government has set the target of VAT collection of Rs 24,000 crore this year. It is essential that this target is achieved. Important projects of social infrastructure, social welfare programmes, improvement of public education and health care are all incumbent upon tax revenues.

Whereas Hon’ble LG is arbitrarily transferring and posting officer to VAT department without consulting the Delhi Government and against the wishes of Delhi Government, however, the responsibility of collecting this tax rests with Delhi Government.

Obviously, our constitution doesn’t allow power without responsibility. There is also no place in our democracy for power without accountability. Hon’ble LG’s arbitrary transfers and postings are proving to be deleterious to public interest. No constitutional authority or public office can actively work against public welfare.

Delhi Government has absolutely no problems if Hon’ble LG is ready to meet the aforesaid VAT collection targets.Then he can appoint officers of his choice and run the VAT department in the manner he deems fit. GNCTD is willing to hand over the VAT department to Hon’ble LG, if he accepts to meet VAT targets.

But if GNCTD were to achieve these budgetary targets, then the power to appoint officers of its choice have to vest with GNCTD and Hon’ble LG cannot arbitrarily overrule it.

Since Hon’ble LG is a delegatee of Hon’ble President of India, a copy of this Cabinet resolution may be sent to Hon’ble President for information.

A copy of this Cabinet resolution may also be sent to Hon’ble Prime Minister of India and Union Home Minister.

SECOND RESOLUTION

The cabinet took a serious view of the fact that several senior officers of GNCTD have informed the government  that they had been summoned by Hon’ble LG and were threatened of dire consequences (including police action and/or disciplinary proceedings by instituting bogus inquiries against them) if they refuse to partake in the exercise of  obstructing the functioning of Delhi Government.

These officers were told to paralyse the elected Aam Aadmi Party Government by making adverse and obstructionist file notings against the Government’s decisions. The Government has been further informed that the above mentioned intimidating and coercive tactics adopted by the Hon’ble LG have intensified over the last one month.

It has also been brought to the notice of the government that the Hon’ble LG has been misusing the names of top officials of the Central Government to pressurize the GNCTD officers to act in an illegal manner.

It has been brought to the notice of the government that in case the officers did not acquiesce, they would invite the wrath of the central government and their civil service careers would be destroyed.

The Cabinet is aghast to learn of these developments. This is a clear attempt to subvert the functioning of a democratically elected government which had come to power with a thumping majority.

Whereas, on one hand, the AAP government is committed to root out corruption and take strong action against erring officials, it is a duty in equal measure of this government to protect its officers who are honest and committed to serve the people.

The first and foremost duty of any elected government is to provide an atmosphere in which a conscientious  and scrupulous bureaucracy can carry out its public duty work without any fear or favour.

This government will extend its full support to any officer in case he faces any political victimization or witch-hunt. The Government and the Cabinet will stand behind its officers to defend their bonafide decisions. It is the duty of every officer to not just support but also facilititate and implement all the legitimate decisions of the government. If they are pressurized by anyone in any manner, they should immediately bring it to the notice of the Government.

In order to protect officers from any possible victimization for any decision taken by that officer in a bonafide manner, the GNCTD shall provide all support including the best legal help to that officer at government cost.

To institutionalize this mechanism, a Group of Ministers (GoM) is hereby set up. This GoM will, upon receiving a complaint for help from any officer would assess if it is a case of political victimization. The GoM can also take up a case suomoto.  If it prima facie finds that it is a case of political victimization on accord of a bonafide decision/action taken by that officer, then the GOM shall be authorized to take all steps required to protect that officer including providing legal support at government’s cost.

This GoM shall be chaired by the Deputy Chief Minister Mr. Manish Sisodia and will consist of Home Minister Mr. Satyendar Jain and Transport Minister Mr. Gopal Rai as members. Principal Secretary (Services) shall be Secretary to the GOM.

ASSEMBLY SESSION

The cabinet approved convening of the second session of the sixth legislative assembly of Delhi from 18 November to 28 November.

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