Overruling the decisions of the past three chairpersons of the Lalit Kala Akademi against its Secretary Sudhakar Sharma, who was dismissed twice on a series of serious charges earlier, and ignoring a decision of the Delhi High Court, the culture ministry on Thursday quashed his suspension with immediate effect.
Since December 2011, Sharma has been dismissed twice by the Akademi on different charges. While he got a stay on the termination order, he has been mostly under suspension. On December 29 last year, the Delhi HC ordered that Sharma should remain under suspension until the probe against him was over.
In its order dated October 15, accessed by The Indian Express, the ministry quashed Sharma’s suspension, but acknowledged the charges against him. It noted that “proceedings regarding enquiry in respect of charges against him may continue as per prescribed procedure.”
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Sharma continues to face several other probes, besides a writ petition in the high court over his alleged illegal appointment and other charges. While ministry officials were unavailable for comment, Sharma refused to comment on the matter. “This is contempt of court by the culture ministry,” said Shrikant Pandey, general council member of the Akademi from 2008 to 2012. “This quashing of suspension is absolutely illogical,” said Balan Nambiar, artist and former acting chairperson of the Akademi.
Sharma was sent to the Akademi in 2001, on a four-year deputation. At the end of his tenure in March 2005, his post was regularised. He was first dismissed on December 2, 2011 by then chairperson Ashok Vajpeyi, who, in a written order, accused him of “misconduct”, “several and severe lapses”, and said he was “habitually derelict”. Sharma was later reinstated by the ministry, with directions that he should face a probe for the charges listed in the dismissal order.
In February 2013, then chairperson, K K Chakravarty, suspended Sharma again and initiated an enquiry. In May 2013, as many as 16 charges were levelled against him by the Akademi, including undertaking foreign visits without permission and alleged irregularities.
In May 2014, the Akademi terminated his service, noting that his 2005 appointment was illegal. But in July 2014, Sharma challenged the order before the CAT which directed the Centre to consider his appeal. On December 10, 2014, the culture ministry quashed the Akademi’s order, saying that “it was against the principles of natural justice”. A day later, the Akademi ordered that he would remain under suspension while he was under probe.
In July, Chakravarty, in a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, challenged the ministry’s order. “The ministry, instead of looking into such grave matters, cancelled my order for the termination of the Secretary,” he wrote. Even as the Akademi engaged in a showdown with the ministry over Sharma, the ministry took over the management of the institution in April. The ministry sacked Chakravarty and appointed Additional Secretary K K Mittal as the administrator.