New Delhi: From corruption and sexual harassment to extortion and fraud: The 12 Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers of the finance ministry forcibly retired with effect Tuesday face a whole range of allegations, which also landed some of them in jail.
The 12 IRS (income tax) officers, who hold the posts of chief commissioner, principal commissioners and commissioner of the Income Tax Department, have been removed by President Ram Nath Kovind under a rarely-used provision of civil services rules, as noted in a finance ministry circular issued Monday.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (j) of rule 56 of the Fundamental Rules, the President of India has retired 12 officers of the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) in public interest with immediate effect from the afternoon of June 11, 2019 on completing 50 years of age,” the circular stated.
Fundamental Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, provides for compulsory retirement of government staff in public interest.
ThePrint looks at the antecedents of some of the senior officers sacked under the rule.
1. Ashok Agarwal (IRS 1985): The joint commissioner for income tax and former deputy director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) faces some of the most serious charges. Complaints of corruption and extortion from businessman had earned the civil servant a suspension between 1999 and 2014. In 2005, the CBI had launched an inquiry against him over the alleged acquisition of disproportionate assets worth Rs 12 crore.
2. S.K. Srivastava (IRS 1989): Srivastava, the commissioner (appeal) in Noida, has been accused of sexual harassment by two women IRS officers of commissioner rank. According to sources in the government, he used his official position to thwart the proceedings against him.
However, the likes of RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy and Swadeshi Jagran Manch national co-convenor Ashwini Mahajan have thrown their weight behind Srivastava, calling the charges baseless.
Entire sexual harassment charges have been proved false. One of the ladies who had made the charge against Shrivastava has been recently charged with threatening a CBDT member with sexual harassment allegations. I have read the entire case. All corrupt have ganged up against him https://t.co/zjGC9qKOdS
— S Gurumurthy (@sgurumurthy) June 11, 2019
3. Homi Rajvansh (IRS 1985): Rajvansh has been accused of acquiring disproportionate assets, movable and immovable, totalling Rs 3 crore in his own and family members’ name. According to sources, Rajvansh was arrested by the CBI in this regard. He has also been accused of “resorting to litigation and raising technical and procedural issues” to conclude disciplinary proceedings against him.
4. B.B. Rajendra Prasad: The former Mumbai income tax commissioner was arrested by the CBI on graft charges in 2017. According to sources in the government, he was accused of granting favours to a corporate house and acquiring assets disproportionate to his income. Following his arrest in 2017, he was placed under suspension.
5. Alok Kumar Mitra: Said to have been involved in several cases of corruption and extortion. Sources said he had passed many “wrong and malafide” assessment orders, which were subsequently reversed by the appellate authorities. He is also accused of circumventing departmental inquiries against him by filing cases with the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the body that oversees disputes and complaints involving public servants.
The other officers retired are Ajoy Kumar Singh, B. Arulappa, Chander Saini Bharti, Andasu Ravindar, Vivek Batra, Swetabh Suman and Ram Kumar Bhargava.
Fresh impetus under Modi govt
Some of the earlier high-profile instances where the compulsory retirement rule has been invoked involved former IAS officers M.N. Vijaykumar and K. Narasimha, and IPS officers Mayank Sheel Chohan and Raj Kumar Dewangan.
The Modi government has been keen on using the rarely-used rule more proactively in order to get rid of corrupt officials and remove deadwood from the bureaucracy.
In 2015, the Department of Personnel and Training said in an order that the government would let go of non-performing officers and those with questionable integrity by giving them compulsory premature retirement.
Monday’s action came days after the Cabinet Secretariat and the Central Vigilance Commission reportedly asked to the vigilance heads of various departments to identify officers for compulsory retirement under Fundamental Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972.