As many as 16 employees of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), who were suspended for their alleged involvement in corruption and other criminal cases, have resumed duties even as their cases are pending before the court. Of the 16, only one has been acquitted by the court. During their suspension period, the PCMC had to pay them Rs 8 crore in salaries and benefits as per the stipulated government norms.
Of the 16, a total of 11 are accused in corruption cases, including nine who were caught by the Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly demanding and taking bribe while two of them were involved in financial embezzlement. Four others had FIRs filed against them in different criminal cases. Only one has been acquitted of all the charges by the court.
All of them rejoined the duty over a period of a month in June.
The issue has generated lot of heat with the opposition NCP accusing the administration of “supporting the corrupt and emboldening other employees to commit such acts”.
The PCMC administration, however, has backed its action. “Whatever has been done is as per the state government resolution. The GR says employees who are accused of corruption can be reinstated after the chargesheet is filed in the court and a probe is conducted by the civic body against them. The probe has to be conducted three months after the employee is suspended,” said Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar.
The civic chief said even the Supreme Court and High Courts have given their ruling in such cases. “The Supreme Court in one of the rulings has clearly said the government employees cannot be kept suspended for protracted period pending probe or trials. The court, in fact, has said that a government employee cannot be suspended for more than three months pending probe,” Hardikar said.
During the period of suspension, the PCMC had to initially pay the employees 50 per cent of their salary for three months and later 75 per cent of the salary. In the last three-four years when the employees were suspended, the PCMC paid them collectively Rs 8 crore. A civic official said the employees “did no work and yet walked away with crores and that too after being involved in serious crime”. “This is why the state government had passed a resolution underlining that the employees can be reinstated till their trials come to a final conclusion. If they are acquitted, they can continue in the service. If they are convicted, then the civic body can take action against them as per stipulated norms, including dismissing them from service,” said an official.
The PCMC chief said the employees have not been placed in the same department where they earlier worked. They have not been given postings involving financial dealings. “This is again as per the government resolution,” he said.
Civic activist Maruti Bhapkar, who has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis against the PCMC’s move, said, “If civic employees accused of corruption are taken back in such a manner, it will encourage other employees to get involved in corruption. A wrong message is being sent out to employees by such a move. The PCMC says it has acted according to a government resolution, in that case, it is a wrong resolution and it should be scrapped,” he said.