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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Discord in the Home Ministry: Before he was fired, Home Secretary LC Goyal kept saying No, Minister, official records reveal

L C Goyal, the then Home Secretary, had a different take on the matter and put it down in writing, prompting the minister to intervene and overrule him.

Written by Shyamlal Yadav | New Delhi | Updated: September 4, 2015 2:02:24 pm
L C Goyal (left), Rajnath Singh L C Goyal (left), Rajnath Singh

“Argumentative statements and counter statements between the Addl Secretary (CS) and the Home Secretary must be avoided. With competence for decision making well-defined, I would surely expect all to abide by the norms…”

This is Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s June 11 noting on a file initiating disciplinary proceedings against an officer. L C Goyal, the then Home Secretary, had a different take on the matter and put it down in writing, prompting the minister to intervene and overrule him.

Watch Video: Clash With Rajnath Singh Reason For Former Home Secretary LC Goyal’s Early Exit

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Three months later, Goyal was removed as Home Secretary. He cited “personal reasons” and his “own decision” for the exit.

But records scrutinised by The Indian Express show that Goyal and Singh did not agree on several matters, including the minister’s decision to order a CBI inquiry against Delhi five-star hotel Le Meridien over alleged irregularities regarding its lease. In fact, the inquiry recommendation was forwarded to the CBI on August 31, the day Goyal was removed, sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said.

Home Minister explains in his note of June 11, 2015 Home Minister explains in his note of June 11, 2015

Notings made by the minister and his secretary make it clear that each was not comfortable with what the other had proposed, especially on the appeal filed by Tamil Nadu cadre IPS officer Archna Ramasundaram against her suspension; recommendation for a CBI inquiry against Le Meridien; disciplinary proceedings against former NDMC chairman Jalaj Srivastava; extension to SSB officer Ajay Kumar Saha as Chief Security Officer of NDMC; matter of Joint Cadre Authority; and, transfer of some officers sought by the Delhi government.

When The Indian Express sought his response, Rajnath Singh declined comment. Goyal said, “As part of a process, we express our opinion and a final decision is taken by the competent authority. Nothing unusual in it.”

Consider these:

The Le Meridien matter

An inspection team, constituted by the MHA on May 25, submitted a report on July 20, saying it had come across irregularities by the NDMC. It listed “irregular appointments/repatriation made by Chairman, NDMC; misleading the MHA by the Chairman by presenting wrong facts; non-compliance and wilful disobedience of MHA’s directions by Chairman, NDMC; Irregular allotment of flower kiosk in Palika Bazar on licence; irregularities in the cases of real estate assets; irregularity in fixing licence dues with interest in respect of Hotel Le Meridien”.

The report said “the allegation that deed for Le Meridien hotel was finalized at Rs 150 crore whereas actually it is more than Rs 500 crore, has a serious vigilance angle… inspection team has proposed that a wider investigation is required and suggested that detailed enquiry may be handed over to EOW, Delhi Police to enquire into the nexus between certain people/professionals on the pay rolls of Hotel Le Meridien with employees/relatives of employees in the NDMC”.

On the basis of the inspection team’s report, the MHA recommended two options. Option I said that departmental proceedings may be considered in five of the six irregularities noticed. On Le Meridien, it said “a view may be taken whether to hand over the inquiry to Economic Offences Wing, Delhi Police or to an external independent agency/CBI”. Option II proposed that “MHA may ask NDMC to submit their response on the observations made by Inspection Team in its report… so that a comprehensive view may be taken in the matter”.

When the file reached Home Secretary Goyal, he wrote on August 3: “What is the proposal for Option I or Option II?”

The next day, Additional Secretary Anant Kumar Singh wrote “Option II will only delay the process without serving any useful purpose… actions enlisted under Option I should be initiated immediately and monitored for time bound completion… It appears that the NDMC administration has granted such relief to Le Meridien hotel which it had failed to obtain even from the High Court through a series of litigations spread over decades. Even competence and motive of the Chairman, NDMC to grant a relief of about Rs 370 crore over and above the concession granted by the High Court is questionable. This needs time-bound investigation through a credible Central agency.”

File notings reflect that Goyal was against immediate action. On August 5, he wrote action under Option I may be taken “after getting the response of NDMC”.

On August 19, Rajnath Singh stepped in: “Option One approved… Case pertaining to hotel Le Meridien shall be handed over to CBI”.

The Archna Ramasundaram matter

A Tamil Nadu cadre IPS officer, Archna Ramasundaram was cleared by the ACC as Additional Director, CBI. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) repeatedly requested the state government to let her join the new posting in Delhi. Though the state had not relieved her of her charge, she joined the CBI on May 8, 2014. The Tamil Nadu government suspended her the same day calling it “very serious misdemeanor”. She appealed to the MHA on July 12, 2014. The file surfaced only on March 3, 2015 — within a month of Goyal becoming Home Secretary.

The MHA note said “suspension order (against Archna)… and the consequential charge memo… issued by Government of Tamil Nadu may be treated as unjustified and the appeal… may be allowed”. Notings were exchanged between Goyal and Additional Secretary Anant Kumar Singh. Each had a different view.

The Additional Home Secretary pointed out that Narendra Modi, as Gujarat Chief Minister, had protested when the MHA sought availability of Gujarat cadre IPS officer K N Sharma who wanted to come to the Centre on deputation and the state did not forward his name.

“…the then Chief Minister (present Prime Minister of India) protested strongly against this for being detrimental to the federal structure of the country and for encouraging indiscipline amongst the All India Service officers,” Singh wrote.

On March 12, Rajnath Singh intervened. Writing in Hindi, he said a final decision on the appeal by Ramasundaram should be taken after clarification from DoPT and the view of the Department of Justice. He also called for the file on March 18.

The Joint Cadre Authority (JCA) matter

An August 3 note of the MHA stated: “The issue of legality of JCA was discussed earlier also in this Ministry. It was decided to request the DoPT that AIS (All India Services) Joint Cadre Rules are neither applicable to AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories) Cadre nor can be applied to AGMUT Cadre. Hence, their notification dated April 3, 1989 and all subsequent notifications concerning re-structuring of JCA from time to time may be withdrawn… It is suggested that we may request DoPT to amend the AIS (Joint Cadre) Rules, 1972. If the suggestion is acceptable, then solicit for the approval of the Hon’ble Union Home Minister, as earlier also this division had obtained approval of the Hon’ble Union Home Minister.”

On August 12, Goyal wrote “…there is no need to revisit the existing mechanism of JCA and no further action is necessary in the matter.” Additional Secretary Anant Kumar Singh wrote the same day that “approval of HM on the above direction of HS would be needed”. But Goyal immediately replied: “No need to take the approval of HM. Orders as above may be followed.”

Matter concerning then NDMC chief, CSO

The NDMC appointed Ajay Kumar Saha, Joint Area Organiser, SSB, as Chief Security Officer of NDMC on September 13, 2008. At the end of the five-year deputation on September 12, 2013, he was granted an extension of six months. It was alleged that instructions issued by MHA and guidelines issued by DoPT “were not adhered to by NDMC.” NDMC chief Jalaj Srivastava was transferred to Ministry of Agriculture on May 1, 2015.

On June 16, the MHA said “we may issue show-cause notice to Shri Jalaj Srivastava by giving him reasonable opportunity for making representation, as per rule 10 of All India Service Rule. We may issue chargesheet to Shri Jalaj Srivastava to initiate disciplinary action against him”.

On June 17, Goyal wrote on the file: “Since the officer is now Addl Secy in the Ministry of Agriculture, DoPT should issue the memo. Please check up.” Director (Services) A V Dharma Reddy prepared a note dated June 18 which said “a view may be taken to institute disciplinary proceedings in this case. The memo along with imputations of misconduct are placed below for kind approval of HM”.

On June 19, Goyal wrote “HM may kindly see.” On June 23, Rajnath Singh wrote: “There has been avoidable delay in issuance of chargesheet, though the rule position abundantly clear. The chargesheet is approved and shall be issued immediately.”

On irregularities in the appointment of Ajay Kumar Saha, Rajnath Singh wrote on May 26: “JS(DM) is appointed as enquiry officer to enquire into the facts of the case in the light of all relevant rules/procedures and guidelines and put up his report by June 15.” But on June 1, Goyal said “the inspection team may also be asked to look into” it. On June 11, Rajnath Singh wrote: “Argumentative statements and counter statements between the Addl Secretary (CS) and the Home Secretary must be avoided.”

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