A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday expressed its disapproval when it emerged that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had written to the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) regarding the institute’s decision to employ retired IPS officer Rajnish Rai.
Rai had supervised the probe into the encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kauserbi and Tulsiram Prajapati in 2007. He took voluntary retirement from the service (VRS) in November 2018 and was working with IIM-A as associate professor of Public Systems Group since May 6.
Advocate Rahul Sharma, representing Rai, told the court that last week MHRD wrote to IIM-A asking why the institute had employed Rai when he is under suspension as per the government’s records. Justice S R Brahmbhatt, heading the division bench, asked after perusing the letter, “IIM-A is an independent institution; the Government of India is writing such letters?”
The bench sought its response in this regard, even as the Centre’s legal representative Assistant Solicitor General Devang Vyas was absent in court.
Sources told The Indian Express that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had notified the MHRD on Rai’s status of employment and non-approval of his VRS application, highlighting the Centre’s suspension order of December 2018 and the chargesheet of January 14 filed against him. This in turn was communicated to IIM-A by MHRD.
Meanwhile, the state government challenged the validity of the petition in the High Court, calling it “infructous” in light of the ongoing review application at the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Ahmedabad bench. However, no official submissions have been made in this regard by legal representatives of the governments.
The court observed that the respondents should move towards getting a direction of this court and then approach the Supreme Court, if unsatisfied, instead of writing such letters amounting to interference.
Rai’s petition sought directions to the respondent parties to “not interfere, directly or indirectly” and “allow him to take up any employment, profession or occupation that he may choose to earn his livelihood, subject to limitations placed by Rule 26 of the All India Services (Death-Cum-Retirement Benefit) Rules, 1958”.
In light of the MHRD letter, Rai’s advocate Sharma on Tuesday asserted in the courtroom that the matter be heard and pointed out the delay. The matter last received directions from the High Court on March 25.
Sharma argued, “For the past four months, we have seen continuous adjournment. There was one month of vacation and for three months we have seen adjournment, with them (respondent parties) seeking time over something or the other.” The state government as well as Rai agreed that the matter be argued upon and kept for final disposal on July 30.
The last order by the division bench on March 25 had taken into account Rai’s submissions that since the respondents — central and state governments — had come to no final conclusion in the inquiry against Rai, the pendency amounted to “permitting the respondent to continue with the inquiry”, affecting Rai’s right to enforce his VRS and receive pension as per rules. The bench had thus ruled, “…it would be open to the petitioner to seek adjournment in the inquiry proceedings…”