GRANTING RELIEF to the senior-most Punjab IAS officer, Himmat Singh, who was aggrieved by the SAD-BJP government’s decision to give him a post much junior to his status, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has directed the Punjab government to appoint him within two weeks on a post equivalent to that of the state Chief Secretary. The tribunal expressed the posting order was “vitiated on account of arbitrary exercise of power and deserves to be quashed.” The Chandigarh bench of the CAT, in its judgment released Wednesday, while coming down heavily on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, said, “The order of equivalence has been issued without application of mind by the competent authority that directed the issue of the posting order i.e. the Chief Minister of the state.”
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The tribunal has thus quashed the Punjab government’s order dated March 16, 2012, of posting 1980-batch IAS officer Himmat Singh as Member Secretary of the Punjab State Women Commission as the post is manned by a much junior joint secretary level officer. Even Punjab Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal is from the 1982 batch. An order dated March 29, 2012, equating the post of Member Secretary of the Punjab State Women Commission with that of the Chief Secretary, has also been quashed.
The tribunal observed, “From the content of the Punjab State Commission for Women Act, 2011, it is evident that the work expected to be performed by the Member Secretary, State Women Commission can by no stretch of imagination, be considered to be equal in responsibility to that of the Chief Secretary.”
Petitioner IAS officer’s counsel NS Boparai had submitted that it is clearly evident that by exercising its arbitrary powers just to belittle Himmat Singh, the Punjab government even denied all the facilities to which the officer of Chief Secretary rank was entitled like residential accommodation, official transport and even a telephone. “Therefore, the applicant, since his appointment, has been driving himself to his office in his personal car and using his personal phone for official work,” submitted Boparai.
Shocked by the state government’s action, the tribunal observed, “it is also not understood why an officer who had been promoted from time to time and had reached the Apex Scale, should suddenly have been posted against a post that was as per the Punjab Commission for Women Act to be manned by officers of the rank of joint secretary…particularly, when the officer posted as Member Secretary would be expected to work under the guidance and control of the chairperson of the Commission whose own status was only that of Administrative Secretary.”