The Punjab government has dismissed from service a senior government official for allegedly illegally appointing a woman on “compassionate grounds even after her husband had passed away after retirement”.
The dismissal orders were served to HS Sidhu, who was serving as additional registrar of cooperative societies Wednesday. Sidhu has claimed that he is a victim of political witch-hunt and will now challenge his dismissal in court.
Sources in the cooperative department said Sidhu, while serving as managing director of Housefed earlier had “flouted rules” to appoint the woman, Karamjit Kaur, as a clerk at a time when the “Housefed was in losses.” An inquiry against Sidhu had indicted him of flouting the rules by appointing her.
As per the inquiry report, Karamjit Kaur’s husband Harparkash Singh was compulsorily retired from the Housefed on December 22, 2011 after a Medical Board stated that he was mentally fit but could not move around. Harparkash died a year later on September 14, 2012. All the post-retiral benefits were passed on to Karamjit Kaur. However, Sidhu, the inquiry report states, appointed her as a clerk on January 24, 2013 on “compassionate grounds”. Sidhu was MD, Housefed then.
The inquiry had been ordered by Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. Former Additional Registrar (admn) Cooperative Societies and an IAS officer Devinder Singh conducted the inquiry into the appointment of Karamjit Kaur.
The inquiry report also states that Sidhu took advice from two advocates but did not send the matter to the cooperative department. “He should have referred the matter to the government or to the registrar’s office before issuing her an appointment letter, instead of getting advice from the advocates. Sidhu has erred in giving appointment on compassionate grounds to the clerk while ignoring the government rules,” the report states.
The dismissal orders issued by Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Cooperation, Kalpana Mittal Baurah say that the conduct of Sidhu was a “blot on the working” of the department. “If a senior officer indulges in such misconduct, what can be expected from junior officers who are working under his guidance. This case really calls for an exemplary punishment so that in future officers do not dare look towards these kind of misadventures,” the order reads.
Sidhu, meanwhile, claimed that he was a victim of witch-hunting and would seek legal action against the “injustice meted out to him.”
“It was a one sided inquiry. I was not even given an opportunity to be heard. I will knock at the court’s doors now,” Sidhu said.
He claimed that his “only fault” was that he had appointed a widow on compassionate grounds after taking two legal opinions. “Her husband was forcibly retired by us as he was medically unfit. But he had got relief after going to a medical board and we were in the process of reappointing him when he passed away. Hence I took the legal opinion that said we could consider his wife for employment on compassionate grounds. That was my only fault. I do not know why all this action (has been taken) against me,” Sidhu said.
He claimed that Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa was behind the witch-hunt. “First he transferred me, then suspended me and now he has got me dismissed. I will knock at the doors of the judiciary,” he said.
Sidhu, who was earlier MD of Punjab State Agriculture Development Bank, was put under suspension for allegedly spending Rs 45 lakh on “renovation of PADB headquarters.” An inquiry report had stated that he had not called for tenders and even the bills of the works done were missing from the files. The suspension orders had then stated that he started the renovation without a sanction and caused loss to the state exchequer.