Stating that arbitration in land acquisition cases is part of an officers normal duty,the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on Tuesday submitted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court that IAS officers cannot claim or fix any fee for arbitration cases without sanction from the competent authority.
The ministrys affidavit,submitted by Vijay Chhibber,secretary to the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways,was in reply to a PIL filed by advocate H C Arora seeking criminal or departmental action against IAS officer S R Ladhar for retaining an amount charged for arbitration instead of depositing it with the government. It was filed on the basis of minutes of a meeting between officers of the DOPT,Union Law Ministry and secretary,Road Transport and Highways.
As per the PIL,Ladhar,the Jalandhar DC,had collected Rs1.58 crore as arbitration fee to settle disputes between the NHAI and the farmers in Punjab whose land was being acquired by the NHAI.
He had allegedly himself fixed his arbitration fee at Rs 3,600 per case,and in one particular instance involving a decision on 629 applications,he had allegedly charged a separate fee per application,thereby collecting Rs 26 lakh. The Union ministrys affidavit,however,states that in the present case and in all similar arbitration cases,the officer cannot claim or fix fees without prior sanction from the competent authority that had appointed the officer as an arbitrator.
The respondent no 4 (SR Ladhar) is a member of IAS,and is,therefore,governed by Rule 13 (4) of the All India Services (Conduct ) Rules,1968,which states that no member of the service shall accept any fee for any work done for any public body or for any private person without sanction of the government, the affidavit reads.
It,however,makes a clarification: However,should a state government desire to reward its revenue officers assigned the work of arbitration in matter of land acquisition for national highways,such state governments being the competent authority are free to do so.
The PIL is listed for further hearing on August 16.