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CAT transfers official who stayed Modi govt’s move to compulsorily retire IRS officer

A.K. Patnaik stayed the compulsory retirement of IRS official G. Shree Harsha on 25 June. He was transferred just a day later to Karnataka.

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New Delhi: The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has transferred a member of its Kolkata bench a day after he stayed the Modi government’s decision to compulsorily retire one of the officers of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).

In an order dated 26 June, the CAT chairman transferred A.K. Patnaik to the Karnataka bench.

The Kolkata bench member had stayed the compulsory retirement of IRS official G. Shree Harsha of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).

Patnaik joined the Kolkata bench of CAT in December 2010 and has a tenure till November 2020. The administrative tribunal is tasked with adjudicating disputes and complaints of public servants relating to the Union and state governments and their departments.

Also read: After IRS, Modi govt wants to forcibly retire IAS, IPS officers, review tainted ones monthly

Why Patnaik was transferred

The CAT order didn’t specify the reasons behind the move, but there were many irregularities in the process followed by Patnaik at the time of admission of the application and grant of stay in the case of Harsha, said a government official who didn’t wish to be named.

Patnaik led a single-member bench to hear the matter despite the fact that the nature of the cases warranted that the matter be listed before a two-member panel — a judicial member (as Patnaik is) and an administrative member, said the official.

Further, the application should not have been admitted as the applicant had not exhausted all other available remedies like airing their grievance before the departmental authorities before approaching CAT, the source said.

In his order passed Tuesday, Patnaik mentioned that the CBIC was represented by a junior lawyer who acted as a proxy for the senior standing counsel. A. Roy, the senior counsel, denied this.

The government lawyer has written a letter to the CBIC pointing out that the junior lawyer is not authorised to act as his proxy. ThePrint has seen a copy of the letter.

ThePrint reached Patnaik for a response but he remained unavailable.

Compulsory retirement

Earlier this month, the Modi government had compulsorily retired many officers belonging to the IRS under fundamental rule 56 J, which allows for officials who have attained the age of 50 years to be retired by the President with immediate effect based on quarterly reviews.

The government had on 11 June retired 12 officials of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) facing various corruption charges and followed it up with a similar move against 15 officials of the CBIC exactly a week later on 18 June.

Of these, one official of CBDT and 3 officials of CBIC approached different benches of CAT seeking relief.

On Thursday, the Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of the Union government that the CAT Lucknow bench had no jurisdiction on the matter as the applicant in the case, a CBDT official, had not exhausted other options available to him.

Also read: Young IAS officers hail 5 years of Modi govt’s assistant secretary programme


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