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Gehlot gets stick for graft go-slow

Jaipur, July 15: Rajasthan High Court has pulled up chief minister Ashok Gehlot twice in the past week for encouraging corruption.

A division bench of Justice S.K. Keshote and Justice K.S. Rathore yesterday demanded a list of corrupt officials who have been reinstated by the government, along with their addresses and present postings. The government has been asked to submit the list on August 5.

Taking suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report, the court issued notices seeking an explanation for reinstating an official accused of misappropriation of funds. Showcause notices were issued to the chief secretary, secretaries of the departments of irrigation and panchayati raj and the personnel secretaries of the Centre and the state government.

In a separate order on July 8, the same bench had said the state and the central governments were unwilling to act against senior administrative service officers charged with corruption. “The state government, it seems, is four paces ahead of the Union government in not initiating action against corrupt bureaucrats charged with corruption,” the bench said.

Pulling up the chief minister for not honouring promises made to the people, the court noted that during his recent visit to New York, Gehlot said his government had been successful in clamping down on corruption.

“By not initiating action against corrupt officials, not only the government has failed to stand by its promise but it also seems to have promoted corruption among government officials,” the court said.

The judges took cognizance of a report about IAS officer B.L. Mehrda, who was facing charges of misusing drought relief funds but was allowed to go scot-free despite a chargesheet being framed against him. Mehrda retired this year. The panchayati raj department reportedly framed the charges but did not forward it to the department of personnel for almost two months.

The lokayukta had forwarded a report to the chief minister in 2000 corroborating the charges against Mehrda. No action was taken against four other officers who were chargesheeted in the case.

If the government allows corrupt officials to retire without any action being taken against them, it has to bear their retirement benefits, like pension, the court said.

Yesterday, the bench took note of the report according to which additional chief engineer of Rajasthan State Agricultural Marketing Board, B.R. Mehta, who was under suspension for charges of financial irregularity, has not only been reinstated but has been given a field posting. This is in violation of instructions by the department of personnel that an official facing charges of misappropriation of funds should not get a posting on the field.

Mehta has been accused of inflicting a loss of about Rs 16 lakh to the exchequer in the Shree Madhopur cement road scam about a year ago. The then administrator of the board, A.R. Arvind, had suspended Mehta and served him a chargesheet.

According to the report, even before the inquiry against Mehta was completed, the government reinstated him. The board’s additional chief engineer, B.P. Vijay, who was facing similar charges, was also reinstated last August.

The court also took note of an alleged clean chit and promotion of B.K. Meena, an IAS officer facing an inquiry for the past 14 years.

Meena was accused of sanctioning funds to fake institutions training District Rural Development Authority personnel and was named in another scam in the social forestry scheme. The anti-corruption bureau had caught Meena in 1989 when he was the director of the authority.

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