New Delhi: The controversial suspension of young Uttar Pradesh IAS officer Durga Sakthi Nagpal has triggered a major national debate. On Sunday, the Congress reportedly retorted to the criticism of the Samajwadi Party (SP) over UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi writing a letter to PM Manmohan Singh on the issue that there is no similarity between the cases of Ashok Khemka and Nagpal.
Reacting to the SP's criticism, External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid said that the decision to transfer or suspend an officer comes under the ambit of the state government, as per a news report.
SP had earlier slammed Sonia for writing a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to intervene and citing her concern on Nagpal’s suspension. The party said that she should have written letters when her son-in-law Robert Vadra’s land deals and Khemka’s suspension issues took place.
Eminent, retired and serving bureaucrats have come in full support of the officer, suspended allegedly for demolishing the wall of a local under-construction mosque during Ramzan. 28-year-old Nagpal, a 2010-batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, was suspended on July 27.
Former CAG Vinod Rai, who himself recently demitted office after a considerable amount of criticism from the ruling establishment for his reports on various scams, supported Nagpal.
"Suspension of an officer is a serious issue. It is done when there are grave charges against him or her. She has been denied natural justice as she was not given an opportunity to present her case before being suspended," Rai said.
He said Nagpal's seniors should have stood by her. "Chief Secretary and Secretary (of the department concerned) should have not succumbed (to any kind of pressure)," said Rai, a former IAS officer who demitted as the chief of country's top auditing body.
Former Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) N. Vittal saw political vendetta in Nagpal's suspension and called it as an example of "very unhealthy tradition" established in the country's bureaucracy.
"It is one more example of very unhealthy tradition we have established since independence. Suspension and transfer have been two ways by which politicians feel they can break bone of civil servants.
"There should not be arbitrary suspension of any officer. It is a political vendetta," said Vittal, who had served in various key posts as a former IAS officer before becoming head of anti-corruption body.
He demanded a mechanism to check on such whimsical transfers of bureaucrats.
"There should be a procedure of review of transfer by Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in case of officers serving at Centre. Whereas, State Vigilance Commissions or Lokayuktas should review any such transfer in case an officer is posted in states. Only after confirmation from CVC or
Lokayuktas, as the case may be, such suspension should continue," he suggested.
Vittal said the central government must intervene in the matter. "Durga is a young officer. She should be reinstated immediately," the former CVC said.
Former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian wondered the way such transfers are taking place in various states across the country.
"Transfers in bureaucracy are taking place at the drop of the hat. It is happening across the country, especially in Uttar Pradesh," said Subramanian, a former IAS officer who has served in various key posts.
He said there are two versions on her transfers in media reports seen by him.
One- she was removed as she tore down a wall of religious structure which according to authorities was a potential cause to have caused communal tension and second, she took on sand mafia which were active in the area.
"There has been a number of order by Supreme Court saying that any structure coming out on government land illegally has to be removed... As a sub divisional magistrate she was also supposed to check on illegal mining activities which might be on in that area.
"Going by both the versions, her job was to follow apex court's order (which was to check on unauthorised construction) or do her job of checking on illegal mining activities. Has she been suspended for following her duties?," he asked.