The Delhi High Court today dismissed the Centre’s appeals challenging an order of the Central Administrative Tribunal and directed it to give promotion to Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer Ashok Kumar Aggarwal, who was earlier reinstated on an order of the Supreme Court. The court said the facts and circumstances of the case clearly showed the bias on the part of authorities which constituted “malice and mala fide” that has been “repeatedly deprecated”.
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Deepa Sharma upheld the February 2016 order of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) by which it had quashed two memorandum of charges against Aggarwal and issued directions to the Centre to to give all such promotions to him as had been given to his juniors. The CAT had also said the officer shall be given all the consequential benefits and for that purpose, his ACRs written up to 1,999 shall be considered.
“The totality of the facts and circumstances of the case clearly shows the bias on the part of authorities of such a nature which constitutes malice and malafide. The malice and malafide has been repeatedly deprecated, while dealing with the matters between the parties, i.e. the respondent (Aggarwal), CBI and the petitioners (Union of India). “We are, therefore, of the view that the Tribunal has rightly concluded on the basis of undisputed facts and circumstances and after recording in details the reasons for reaching such conclusion that the charge sheets were vitiated. We find no infirmity and illegality in the impugned order which warrants interference. The writ petitions resultantly are without merit and are hereby dismissed,” the bench said.
Aggarwal had joined the services of the Central government as Income Tax Officer Group ‘A’ in December 1985 and was promoted and was working as a Joint Commissioner of Income Tax. He had held the position of deputy director of the Enforcement Directorate (Delhi zone), under the Ministry of Finance, during 1997-1998. The corruption cases were initiated after he started investigation into alleged Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) violations by a businessman.
The 1985-batch IRS officer was suspended on December 28, 1999 after the CBI registered two cases against him – one for allegedly framing businessman Subhash Bharjatya in a FERA violation case and the other for allegedly amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The CAT had first set aside his suspension order in 2003. The high court in January 2016 had given a clean chit to Aggarwal in both the cases, saying he was falsely implicated. The Centre had earlier challenged the CAT’s 2003 order before the Supreme Court which had in December 2013, ordered Aggarwal’s reinstatement and withdrawal of all disciplinary actions against him.
The authorities had challenged the CAT’s February 2016 order on the grounds that it was “perverse, illegal, against the settled principles of law and that the tribunal has exceeded its jurisdiction while quashing the memorandum of charges of March 14, 2014 and March 20, 2014. The officer’s counsel had argued that the issuance of the memorandum of charges was a motivated act on the part of the competent authority, which had acted with malice and with the sole aim to cause prejudice to him.
The high court, in its 80-page verdict, said the Centre too was not lagging behind the CBI when it came to harassing the officer. It noted that after the suspension order was revoked, they transferred him in gross violation of the transfer policy and it was only on the intervention of the court that the transfer order was cancelled. The authorities still challenged the order before the high court and obtained an ex-parte stay in December 2014 after which he filed an application for perjury, alleging that it was obtained on false presentation of facts, it noted.
The bench said the stay was vacated by the court in January 2015 and the authorities were allowed to withdraw the petition in February 2015, on their undertaking to post the officer in Delhi. Despite the said undertaking, henwas not given any posting for 11 months and was given one only on the court’s intervention and “this conduct showed nothing but malice”, it said.