Officer who stood up to Mulayam Singh Yadav gets SC relief
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reproached the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh for framing an Indian Forest Service (IFS) Officer in a false corruption case and ordered it to pay Rs 10 lakh in compensation. Former chief minister and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had ordered a vigilance inquiry after the officer reportedly refused to obey his directive to help Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, who was a minister in his cabinet at the time.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice N V Ramana said protection of an honest public servant is required not only in his interest but in the larger interest of society.
“This court time and again extended assurance to the honest and sincere officers to perform their duty in a free and fair manner towards achieving a better society,” said the bench, coming down heavily on the UP government for its “illegal action” against Ram Lakhan Singh, who was suspended in 2004 after three FIRs were lodged against him for amassing assets disproportionate to his income and under other graft charges.
Trouble began for Singh, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, after Mulayam, who was CM at the time,
reportedly asked him to ensure that the Benti Bird Sanctuary located in Kunda, Pratapgarh district, is denotified by the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL). Singh was also a member of the NBWL.
The bird sanctuary was set up in Raja Bhaiya’s Benti estate by previous chief minister Mayawati, who had a running feud with him. Raja Bhaiya was deprived of control over around 100 acre of land and a pond in his estate after the declaration of the bird sanctuary.
However, after Mulayam came to power in August 2003, Raja Bhaiya came out of jail and was made the Minister of Food and Civil Supplies. It was at this time that Singh, as per his petition, was instructed to get the sanctuary denotified so that Raja Bhaiya could regain control over his estate.
After Singh refused to comply, Mulayam reportedly forwarded a complaint by one of his party MLAs to the Vigilance Department for investigation into alleged graft charges. In June 2004, Singh’s house was raided and he was arrested and thrown behind bars for 11 days. The IFS officer, due to retire after a few months, was also suspended the same day.
Singh subsequently moved the Allahabad High Court, which cleared him of all charges in August 2011 and ruled that he was wrongly prosecuted.
Pointing out that his fundamental rights were breached due to being falsely implicated, Singh last year moved the apex court, seeking exemplary damages. But the state government claimed there was no procedural lapse and that Mulayam had directly ordered the vigilance inquiry.
The bench, however, trashed the state’s argument and underscored its “negligence and irresponsible act” that caused mental agony and loss of reputation to Singh, apart from financial losses.
It said there is a “dire necessity” to protect honest officers and regretted that “some upright officers resist corruption but they cannot alone change the system, which victimises them through frequent punitive transfers, threat to their families and fabricating, foisting false cases”.
Slamming the UP government for its attempt to “justify illegal action”, the bench directed it to pay Singh Rs 10 lakh in compensation within three months for the “trauma” suffered by him.
In September 2014, the apex court had ordered the UP government to pay Rs 5 lakh as damages to IAS officer Vijay Shankar Pandey, against whom disciplinary proceedings were initiated after he joined a campaign to bring black money back.
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