In the year that whistleblower Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi was conferred the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for battling corruption, the Centre gave him an effective “zero” in his annual appraisal report. The appraisal was for the 2015-16 financial year when Chaturvedi was serving as Deputy Secretary at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. It was the period when he had been stripped of his responsibilities and left “without work”, forcing him to move the Supreme Court.
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The court has already issued a notice to the Centre on his plea. Chaturvedi has been given a score of 1 out of 10. According to the 2009 instructions of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), any grading from 0-4 is considered zero for the purpose of promotion and other service matters while any grading from 8-10 is considered outstanding.
While evaluating Chaturvedi’s performance, V Srinivas, Deputy Director (Admn) of AIIMS, the officer’s immediate supervisor, noted in the report: “He (Chaturvedi) indulged in media leaks, proxy litigation, false complaints, disclosing information acquired by him during the course of his official duties.his proximity to several lawyers enabled him to indulge in 11 cases of proxy/needless litigation against president, AIIMS.”
The reviewing authority and then director of AIIMS, Dr MC Mishra — he retired on January 31 — also recorded a grading of 1 by simply endorsing Srinivas’s comments. Both recorded their grades the same day on December 29, 2016.
Next day, Union Health Minister J P Nadda, as president of AIIMS, the accepting authority of the appraisal report of the officer, also gave him 1, recording this observation: “I have gone through the reports of the reporting and reviewing authorities. However, since I have never directly monitored the performance of the officer reported upon and am not in position to form an independent opinion on it, as such, I cannot but agree with the assessment of his immediate superiors.”
Before this, Chaturvedi’s performance was consistently recorded as “outstanding” for the past five years in a row, including his tenure at AIIMS and Haryana. In the years 2013-14 and 2014-15, Chaturvedi received a 9.5 grading.
Then, Mishra had observed, “Mr Sanjiv Chaturvedi is upright, honest, with integrity. He carries out his responsibilities with utmost dedication and sincerity. He has been carrying out various activities besides his routine work. Cleaning encroachments, unauthorised occupation. He has been instrumental in putting security in right perspective on the campus.”
Chaturvedi was also honoured with the Magsaysay Award in July 2015 for taking action in various corruption cases of AIIMS during 2012-14 as the institute’s Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) apart from detecting cases of fake plantation, illegal tree felling and corruption in Haryana during his previous assignment in the state forest department.
The citation of Magsaysay Award reads as: “In electing Sanjiv Chaturvedi to receive the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his exemplary integrity, courage and tenacity in uncompromisingly exposing and painstakingly investigating corruption in public office and his resolute crafting of programme and system improvements to ensure that government honourably serves the people of India.”
Chaturvedi was removed from the post of AIIMS CVO in August 2014 following a number of letters from Nadda, the then BJP general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, to the Centre from May 2013 to June 2014.
In one letter, Nadda had alleged “procedural irregularities and improprieties in the designation of Chaturvedi as the CVO of AIIMS, New Delhi”. In the last of these letters, Nadda also demanded that all the inquiries/disciplinary proceedings initiated by Chaturvedi as CVO be put on hold.
Then, noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, through a PIL, had brought the issue of Nadda’s letters before the Delhi High Court, alleging it was an attempt to influence the inquiries related to “corruption” cases at AIIMS. The court issued notice to Nadda and others in 2015.
Later, all other works were also gradually withdrawn from Chaturvedi. The move was challenged by Chaturvedi in the Supreme Court and the case is still pending.
Further, on May 15, 2015, AIIMS issued an order to route all the files through the post of Chief Administrative Officer — an arrangement that existed prior to the creation of post of Deputy Secretary — thus completely bypassing Chaturvedi.
A 2002 batch IFS officer, Chaturvedi’s cadre was changed to Uttarakhand from Haryana in 2015 because of “extreme hardship and threat to life in Haryana” after he exposed various forest scams in the state. He is currently conservator forests (research) in Haldwani, Uttarakhand.
The “outstanding” past
According to records, Sanjiv Chaturvedi was consistently given outstanding grades for 3 years (2012-15), out of his four-year tenure at AIIMS. In 2012-13, he was given a grading of 8.75/10, in 2013-14, 9.5/10 and again 9.5/10 in 2014-15. Even then Union Health Secretary, Luv Verma, and Chief Vigilance Officer of Health Ministry, Dr Vishwash Mehta, on May 23, 2014, recorded in file: “Performance of Shri Sanjiv Chaturvedi has been exemplary and he is known for absolute integrity. He has been instrumental in exposing corruption.”