IAS, Punjab Civil Service officers protest Mann govt’s vigilance probes — ‘illegal, arbitrary’

IAS, Punjab Civil Service officers protest Mann govt’s vigilance probes — ‘illegal, arbitrary’

PCS cadre has gone on week’s leave to protest arrest of Narinder Dhaliwal, while IAS officers met CM to object FIR against Neelima Singh. Revenue officers also announce mass leave.

File photo of Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann | Facebook/Bhagwant Mann

File photo of Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann | Facebook/Bhagwant Mann

Chandigarh: The officers of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Punjab Civil Service (PCS) are up in arms against the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government over the Vigilance Bureau’s “arbitrary and illegal” actions against some of their colleagues.

The entire PCS-cadre of the state proceeded on a week’s leave Monday morning to protest against the recent arrest of Ludhiana Regional Transport Authority officer Narinder Singh Dhaliwal by the Vigilance Bureau in an alleged corruption case.

The IAS Officers’ Association is, meanwhile, upset over the booking of Neelima Singh in another alleged case of corruption pertaining to the period when the 2008 IAS batch officer was the managing director in the Punjab State Industries and Export Corporation.

A highly-placed source in the government said that on Monday, more than 70 members of the IAS Officers’ Association and over 35 members of the PCS Officers’ Association met the chief minister to register their protest against the functioning of the bureau.

Following the meeting with the IAS officers, Mann asked the Punjab chief secretary to probe the allegations and report to him. In the case of the PCS officers, the chief minister has constituted a committee under the chairmanship of an IAS officer to examine the issue.

After talks with Mann, the PCS Officers’ Association decided to continue with their strike on the ground that no deadline was given by the CM to meet their demands.

In a statement issued by the association, its president Rajat Oberoi has demanded Dhaliwal’s release as well as quashing of the FIR against him. ThePrint has a copy of the statement.

Meanwhile, Punjab Revenue Officers’ Association extended support to its PCS counterpart in their protest. The revenue officers decided to go on mass leave for a week beginning Monday.

A statement by Punjab Revenue Officers’ Association president Gurdev Singh Dham said the Vigilance Bureau was acting in an irresponsible manner with an “extortionist attitude”.

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Let Vigilance Bureau run state’

During the 40-minute meeting with Mann, IAS officers told the CM that the Vigilance Bureau had “violated provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act with impunity while booking Neelima Singh”, according to multiple sources who were present during the interaction.

The officers said the Act provided for the Vigilance Bureau to take prior permission from the competent authority before acting against a public servant — something the bureau had not done in this case.

The attendees told ThePrint that some officers even suggested to the CM that the manner in which the bureau was working was forcing them not to take any decision on files, which would in the long run be detrimental to the implementation of the government’s development plans in Punjab.

Earlier in the day, the IAS officers had met Punjab chief secretary V. K. Janjua, leading to high-pitched commotion.

Neelima Singh’s husband Amit Singh, who is also an IAS officer, offered to resign during the meeting, after which several IAS officers thumped the table saying they would follow suit, the sources told ThePrint.

The IAS officers also told the chief secretary, according to the sources, that it would be better if every decision they took was vetted by the Vigilance Bureau before it was taken to the state cabinet, so that they were not held to task for those decisions if another government comes to power five years later.

On Thursday, the Vigilance Bureau had registered a criminal case against former Punjab minister Sunder Sham Arora, as well as Neelima Singh, and 10 government officers/officials for bifurcation and transfer of an industrial plot to a realtor company and allowing it to establish a township by cutting plots.
In this case, three owners/partners of realtor firm Gulmohar Township Private Limited have also been booked.

PCS officers to continue strike

Following Dhaliwal’s arrest on Friday, a statement issued by the Vigilance Bureau said he was held for “running an organised crime to collect money as bribes from transporters”.

The bureau had taken action on the complaint of a resident of Mankawal village in Ludhiana, who submitted an online complaint attaching video clips of a home guard attached with Dhaliwal.

The Vigilance Bureau said it verified the evidence and facts of the complaint and found them to be true.

To discuss the matter, the executive committee of Punjab PCS Officers’ Association along with over 80 officers met Sunday in Chandigarh.

A note issued by the association — which ThePrint has accessed — stated that the Vigilance Bureau blatantly violated the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as laid down in the Prevention of Corruption Act. The note added that in doing away with this procedure, the bureau had created “nuisance” for the officials working in the government.

The officers also noted in the meeting that the complainant in the case in which Dhaliwal was arrested had an FIR lodged against him (January 2021) for blackmail.

During Sunday’s meeting, the PCS Officers’ Association also resolved that a separate complaint against the functioning of the Vigilance Bureau would be made to the Police Complaint Authority.

Apart from Dhaliwal’s release and the quashing of the FIR against him, the PCS officers Monday demanded a concrete SOP to be laid down for the Vigilance Bureau to follow, as well as a review of all its inquires initiated against government servants.
“It is now within the power of the government to decide as to the date on which the PCS officers come back to their duties,” read the note issued by the association following the meeting with the chief minister.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

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