Two years after a Deputy Secretary in the Punjab government was convicted and sentenced for seven years in a case of mysterious disappearance of files related to disciplinary action against IAS and PCS officers, the files have been traced from government records even as he has already spent 16 months in jail.
Yograj Sharma (63) was lodged in Burail Jail in Chandigarh from April 15, 2015, to August 26, 2016, before he was granted bail by the High Court pending an appeal filed by him against the decision of the district court.
Sharma was booked for misplacing 35 files, of which six were located while the case was still in the district court. Sources said 22 files, including 18 relating to PCS officers and four of IAS officers, were sent to the Department of Personnel by the the Department of General Administration after the change in guard in the state earlier this year.
The Department of Personnel is in the process of seeking information as to how the files were located. “We do not know how the files have resurfaced when these had been missing for the last seven years. We will inquire into it,” said an official from department of General Administration.
Sharma calls himself an “innocent convict” and asks why he was held guilty in the police chargesheet if the files were in the government records. “I want those guilty brought to book now,” he said.
Narrating his tale of woes, he said he was not able to attend his son’s wedding in Canada in July 2015 as he was in jail and could not be allowed to go abroad. He has also not been given pension.
The files pertain to Sharma’s stint with Personnel department from 2008 to 2010 when he, as the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the department, had sought files from IAS/PCS branch regarding various FIRs and cases of indiscipline against the officials. But he was soon transferred to the Irrigation Department. He retired in 2012 as Deputy Secretary to Chief Minister.
Talking to the Indian Express at his residence, Sharma said, “My life was shattered. All through my career, I was graded as outstanding in my ACR. My family and I were not able to face the blot on my face,” he said.
Sharma was convicted under Section 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 13 (1) (C) (if an official dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriates or otherwise converts for his own use any property entrusted to him or under his control as a public servant or allows any other person to do so) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. He was also fined Rs 50,000.
The district court order had stated, “It was proved that the files were entrusted to the accused and these have been lost. It implies that the accused had misappropriated the same in order to benefit officers against whom the complaints were made and undue advantage, obviously, has been given.”
The then Punjab Chief Secretary, Rakesh Singh, had recommended a case against Sharma. Two inquiries were conducted against him. An inquiry report by former IAS officer JPS Puri, which was submitted to Rakesh Singh, stated that Sharma had failed to explain where 28 of the 35 files had disappeared after these were sent to him.