Citing that the Punjab government used “no application of mind” while chargesheeting a Indian Forest Officer (IFS) of the Punjab cadre, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), quashed the orders of the chargesheet and exonerated the officer of all charges. The tribunal also observed that “undue protection” was being afforded by the then forest minister in the Punjab government in 2011 to some officers and that the applicant was made a scapegoat.
Stating the chargesheet was issued without application of mind, the tribunal held, “The chargesheet for which applicant is implicated, no misconduct or irregularities can be said to have been made out. The chargesheet framed is also contrary to the law as there was no application of mind in order dated February 10, 2012, and consequential order dated November 8, 2013, are hereby quashed.”
The applicant, Harsh Kumar, working as Conservator of Forests, Research and training Hoshiarpur, alleged that he was chargesheeted by the then government in 2012 as he had made an inquiry against a co-officer following a complaint alleging graft.
Pronouncing the orders, the tribunal held, “It is a crystal clear case of malafide and harassment of an officer who was trying to perform his duty. It also appears that undue protection was being afforded by the then minister in-charge to some of the officers of the forest department and the then secretary (forests) was going along with him in the matter and the applicant was made a scapegoat.
Kumar was chargesheeted by the Punjab government on December 10, 2012, and soon after consequential orders of appointing BC Gupta as the inquiry officer in his case were passed on November 13, 2013.
He stated in the application that he was posted as conservator of forests, Ferozepur Circle in June 2011. During this time, when he was on a tour in the Amritsar Forest Division, he was approached by two complainants Harbhajan Singh and Roshan Masih who gave representation to him of graft charges against Deputy Divisional Officer, Amritsar. The complainants stated that their trolley of wood was detained by Wilbert Samson, the then DFO Amritsar and later released the same by accepting a bribe of Rs 25,000.
They alleged that they were told that this was a fine being levied on them, but no receipt was given to them.
Kumar being conservator of forests conducted an inquiry and Samson was found guilty of graft. The matter was then marked to the Vigilance Department by him and an FIR was registered against Sampson on September 8, 2011. Subsequently, Kumar was transferred to Research and Training Circle in September 2011 and a chargesheet was served at the behest of the then Forest Minister for referring the case to the vigilance without seeking explanation.