May 26, 2022 6:01:43 am
The haste and the manner in which legal opinion and institution of Lokayukta were bypassed to register a FIR against senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka on charges of corruption, has raised many eyebrows. On Khemka’s plea seeking quashing of the FIR against him, Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) had stayed his arrest and also issued notice to the Haryana government.
The Indian Express has learnt that despite the matter pending before the office of Lokayukta and a legal opinion also saying that the matter be “not pursued” till the fate of the case before the Lokayukta is known, the state police yet pushed the FIR against Khemka. On the other hand, despite issuing notices to police officials and the complainant to appear “in person” during the hearing before the Lokayukta on three occasions to come up with the evidence that they have (if any), neither the complainant nor the police officers appeared before the Lokayukta. The next date of hearing in the case before the Lokayukta is fixed for August 2.
On October 13, 2021, the Lokayukta Justice (retd.) Hari Pal Verma ordered the complainant Ravinder Kumar and ACP, Panchkula to remain present on the next date of hearing (January 11, 2022) for “final disposal of the case”.
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However, both did not appear on the said date. On January 11, the Lokayukta again found both the complainant and ACP, Panchkula absent from the hearing and asked them to appear on next date (March 24, 2022). They again failed to appear. The matter was then fixed for April 29, when again neither the complainant nor the ACP, Panchkula appeared in the case’s hearing. The Lokayukta again issued an order directing both to remain present on the next date of hearing and has now fixed the matter for August 2, 2022. However, between the last two dates – March 24 and April 29 – IAS officer Sanjeev Verma was posted as Managing Director (Haryana State Warehousing Corporation) on April 8. He also holds additional charge of the divisional commissioner of Karnal, CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s constituency. On April 11, Ravinder Kumar, who had been filing complaints against Khemka for the past several years but in vain, sent a legal notice to the HSWC. A “fact-finding enquiry” was ordered by Verma. On April 20, he sent a reference to the Panchkula police seeking an FIR against Khemka and a few retired HSWC officials under provisions of the Preve-ntion of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code. He also wrote to Chief Secretary Sanjeev Kaushal seeking “strict disciplinary proceedings” against Khemka.
Meanwhile, HSWC also wrote to the Lokayukta seeking copy of the complaint filed by Ravinder Kumar and to intimate the status of the complaint. Replying to that, Lokayukta in his order dated April 29 in a virtual snub to the HSWC wrote, “Secretary/ Managing Director, HSWC be informed that the proceedings of pending before the Lokayukta are judicial in nature, and, therefore, they are at liberty to get the copy of the complaint or ascertain the status of the case in accordance with the provisions of the Haryana Lokayukta Act, 2002 and the Rules framed thereunder”.
Ravinder Kumar filed the first complaint with the police in 2016 seeking registration of FIR against Khemka on charges of corruption. He also subsequently filed the same complaint with the Loakyukta. The Indian Express has also learnt that Assistant Commissioner of Police and then Deputy Commissioner of Police had investigated the complaint and found that “no serious offence was made out”. First, ACP found no merits in the complaint, to which the complainant objected. Then, the DCP dealt with the same complaint and agreed with the ACP’s findings. Both the police officers had also referred to the legal opinion given by the District Attorney who too have found that “no case was made out”.
Even the Lokayukta’s initial probe found that “prima-facie there exists no reasonable ground for further investigation or enquiry into the matter”.
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