M A I N   N E W S

Double whammy for Rodrigues
MHA again directs restoration of Mehra’s ACR powers; 
questions legal opinion
Raveen Thukral
Tribune News Service

Pradip Mehra
Pradip Mehra

Gen SF Rodrigues (retd)
Gen SF Rodrigues (retd)

Chandigarh, April 1
Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen SF Rodrigues (retd) has suffered more setbacks in his ongoing war against Adviser Pradip Mehra.

In a fresh missive, the Union Ministry has once again directed him to “forthwith” restore Mehra’s powers to write the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of his subordinates. According to well placed sources, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has overruled Rodrigues’ contentions of not restoring Mehra’s powers on the pretext of the ongoing vigilance probe against him.

It may be recalled that earlier on March 2, the Union Home Ministry had written to the Administrator directing him to restore Mehra’s powers after the Central Vigilance Commission had given him a clean chit on allegations of misuse of CITCO’s funds. However, instead of following the directive, the Administrator had ordered a vigilance probe against Mehra on March 9 on the basis of the legal opinion submitted by the UT’s senior standing counsel, Anupam Gupta, on certain quasi judicial orders passed by him.

On March 10, Rodrigues wrote to the Home Minster expressing his inability to restore Mehra’s power in view of the ongoing vigilance inquiry. A letter sent by Ashwani Kumar, Director (S), MHA, to UT Home Secretary yesterday clearly states that the arguments of the Administrator were examined but there was nothing to suggest a departure from the laid down guidelines of GOI that provide for communication of ACRs, whether adverse or otherwise, to the officer reported upon.

The letter further states: “It has, therefore been decided that the prevalent channel of writing ACRs of subordinate officers by the Adviser and the status quo ante may be restored forthwith.” The letter is explicit that “this issues with the approval of the Union Home Minister”.

Incidentally, the Union Home Ministry has also raised questions on the legal opinion given by the UT senior standing counsel, Anupam Gupta, on the quasi judicial orders passed by the Adviser, on the basis of which a vigilance probe was ordered against Mehra. It may be recalled that Gen Rodrigues had sought legal opinion on the revision petitions, pertaining to resumed properties, entertained by Mehra during his tenure.

In his 32-page report, Gupta, while highlighting six cases reviewed by Mehra, had concluded that these were “cases of conscious favouritism”. The entire report was sent to the Union Home Minister.

In the second letter, also sent by Ashwani Kumar yesterday, it is stated that “the legal opinion of the senior standing counsel does not state what were the remedies that were available to the Administrator under the relevant Act by way of appeal and why the same had not been availed where applicable”.

According to sources, this refers to Article 226 of the Constitution, which allows the administration to challenge the quasi judicial powers of the Adviser in the High Court. Incidentally, it was only on Gupta’s advice that the administration had forgone this option. During an earlier opinion to the administration, Gupta had categorically stated that no order of the Adviser should be challenged.

The MHA has also asked the Home Secretary to respond to the query immediately.

According to senior advocate M L Sareen, “A very dangerous precedent was being set by holding vigilance inquiries at the instance of the administration, which was party to all the orders without first issuing notice to the officer concerned. Such a course would expose all judicial/quasi judicial officers to disciplinary action without challenging the same on merit.”



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