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CAT comes to aid of whistleblower

In a strongly worded order,the Central Administrative Tribunal has slammed the Central Vigilance Commission for bowing to the “influence of the powers that be"...

Written by Hiral Dave | Rajkot |
March 4, 2009 1:36:00 am

Says Central Vigilance Commission bowed to influence,failed to protect officer who blew the cover

In a strongly worded order,the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has slammed the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for bowing to the “influence of the powers that be”,and for failing to protect an officer who blew the whistle on a multi-crore land scam at the Kandla Port Trust (KPT).

The whistleblower,Manoj Ranjan Kumar,an IES officer,was deputy chairman at KPT. He had to fight a year-long legal battle after he prepared a confidential report exposing a land scam involving top KPT officials.

It related to 1,000 acres of land belonging to KPT,given free to private companies for use without charging any amount as lease. At the heart of the controversial deal was a salt company operating from the KPT land without paying a penny to the government. The total loss suffered by KPT on this account was estimated to be over Rs 190 crore per annum,which,interestingly,exceeded even the port trust’s annual turnover of Rs 180 crore.

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With the lid off the scam,Kumar was ordered to go on leave for three months in January 2008,along with the then chairman Janardhan Rao and three other senior officers. The shipping ministry ordered a CBI inquiry but Kumar,on his part,moved the CVC with his report and documents. The CVC did nothing.

In August 2008,the CAT ordered Kumar to be repatriated to KPT,but the shipping ministry issued no orders to enable him to join back. So,Kumar approached the CAT again. Since then,he has been without a posting,and no salary.

In its 113-page order,the CAT has now asked the shipping ministry to pay a token fine of Rs 25,000 and compensation of Rs 25,000 to the officer,while indicting it for harassing Kumar.

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The CAT order says that removing the officer from KPT by the ministry was done as ‘a substantial number of people,wielding power,felt threatened and insecure on account of the reports he had made of the scam’.

Now the CBI is investigating the scam,but three important files prepared by Kumar that are considered capable of leading to the prosecution of the higher ups are missing. A police complaint was filed on this account by the KPT but no one was arrested.

A saga of harassment,injustice; says CAT
“None of the reports submitted by the applicant is false,yet the ministry had the audacity to state that instead of devoting his time to the development of the port,he was making frivolous complaints. In our view,he has been meted great injustice. Facts of the case do clearly reveal his agony,harassment and humiliation. We are of the view that he deserves cost which we here by quantify at Rs 25,000. Even this cost may not compensate him in view of marathon litigation forced upon him,” the CAT order says.

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The CAT’s indictment of CVC
“If the reply would have been filed by the CVC,we are of the view that it would have no choice,but to support the case of the applicant. We may also draw an inference that it is because of the influence exerted by the powers that be that CVC has not filed a reply. We are distressed to note that the applicant,because of his bold stand exposing misdeeds,corruption and irregularities,instead of being protected by the system,had in fact been victimised. The applicant,in our view,required the protection of CVC. If the system may not protect the applicant,in our considered view,the court must come to his rescue. Otherwise,no whistleblower will ever dare to expose corruption. A whistleblower without protection,where higher ups may be involved,may always be a victim himself,” the CAT order said.

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First published on: 04-03-2009 at 01:36:00 am

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