New Delhi, September 25
The Supreme Court Friday said that the Central government is the authority competent to transfer a 2013-batch IAS officer, who took on transport mafia in Bihar, from one cadre to another.
The apex court granted liberty to the IAS officer, who is fighting a legal battle for his inter-cadre transfer, to make a fresh representation to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) within two weeks in this regard in light of the Delhi High Court’s last year decision.
The High Court had in July last year asked the Centre to initiate the process of inter-cadre transfer of IAS officer Jitendra Gupta forthwith and issue an order transferring him to a cadre outside the Bihar cadre.
A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said the representation might be considered by the competent authority “sympathetically” and appropriate decision be communicated within two months from the date of receipt of representation.
“The proceedings of inter-cadre transfer are awaiting finalisation for the last more than two years. The appellant (Gupta) who is ready to render his services in any other state, which state needs to utilise his services for the welfare of the people,” the Bench, also comprising Justices RS Reddy and MR Shah, said in its order.
“There is no doubt that it is the Central Government which is authority competent to transfer the appellant from one cadre to another,” the Bench observed.
The apex court delivered the order on Gupta’s plea challenging the High Court’s order of December 24 last year which had rejected his plea seeking initiation of contempt action against the authority concerned for allegedly not complying with the directions given by a division bench of the high court in its July last year verdict.
In its order, the top court said that the officer could not insist that he should be transferred to Haryana.
“We, however, are inclined to grant a liberty to the appellant (Gupta) to make a fresh representation to the Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India in reference to letter dated December 13, 2019 within two weeks from today with regard to his inter-cadre transfer in light of judgment of Delhi High Court dated July 2, 2019,” said the Bench.
“It shall be open for the appellant to give his willingness/consent with regard to any other state. The representation may be considered by the competent authority sympathetically and appropriate decision be communicated at an early date preferably within two months from the date of receipt of the representation,” it said.
After the High Court’s July last year order, a letter dated December 13, 2019 was issued by the Centre to Gupta to convey his willingness or consent for inter-cadre transfer to Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh or Manipur cadre which are having the maximum shortage of IAS officer as on date so that the matter could be considered further in the department.
During the arguments before the apex court, Gupta’s counsel had argued that the High Court’s July last year order had not been complied with by the authority.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted that no contempt was committed by the authority and under the High Court’s July last year order, the Centre was to take decision regarding inter-cadre transfer of Gupta as per law.
“In the facts of the present case, we are of the view that present was not a case of any willful disobedience of the direction of the High Court dated July 2, 2019 and the high court rightly refused to initiate contempt proceedings,” the Bench said, while disposing of the appeal.
It said that the apex court had earlier passed two orders in the matter with the hope that the matter “may be amicably settled”.
A Division Bench of the high court had in July last year said that “willingness/consent” of Gupta be also sought for inter-cadre transfer as per law and the entire process be completed within four weeks.
“If we fail in our duty to protect a man, who has had the nerve to stand up against a mafia and the State machinery, we would be doing great disservice to the system and setting a bad precedent, where no officer would gather the courage to stand up against the wrongdoers,” said the High Court had said.
Before the High Court, Gupta had sought transfer to Haryana alleging threat to his life for acting tough against the transport mafia in Bihar.
The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) had earlier directed the Centre to consider the case of the officer for inter-state deputation to Haryana or for Central Government deputation.
Thereafter, Bihar Government had challenged the CAT order before the high court.
In 2016, Gupta was arrested in a corruption case and was sent to jail. He was later granted bail and the FIR was quashed following Patna High Court’s order. PTI