Bihar Vigilance to prosecute Jharkhand ex Chief Secretary

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With Jharkhand governor Syed Ahmad giving his nod to prosecute him,the Bihar Vigilance Bureau is set to proceed against a retired IAS officer Ashok Kumar Singh.

Singh,holder of Master’s in Public Adminstration from Harvard University,recipient of Edward S.Mason Fellowship awarded by the UNO,who was Jharkhand’s chief secretary,is an IAS of 1975 batch of the Bihar turned Jharkhand cadre.

In his career spanning 38 years,Singh had courted controversy more than once.

In 1994-95,when Singh was Managing Director of Bihar State Financial Corporation(BSFC),a CPI MLA Ramlal Singh had lodged a complaint against him with the Bihar’s Cabinet(Vigilance) Department on July 3,1995.In his complaint,he alleged that this IAS officer had amassed “huge wealth by collecting donations from the loanees of the BSFC in the name of two NGOs-Samvedna and Green Earth-floated by him.”

Acting on his complaint,the Lalu Yadav government directed the vigilance department to launch investigations.

Jharkhand ex Chief Secretary, IAS officer Ashok Kumar
Pic Courtesy

As the sleuths launched enquiry,Singh moved the Patna High Court with a petition seeking to stay these investigations.”The complainant was a defaulter who had taken loan from BSFC to set up Sudhanjali hotel in Bhabua not to repay it.When he was served with a notice to pay ,he tried to influence me.When I refused to oblige him,he slapped the complaint against me”,stated Singh in his petition in 1996.

But the court,instead of providing him relief, directed the vigilance department to complete the inquiry and submit report.However,as three years rolled by and the department sought further time to complete investigations,Justice M.J.Mukhopadhya in his order dated November 29,1999 said:

”In the facts and circumstances,I allow time to conclude the vigilance inquiry and to pass final order thereof within eight months from today,on failure,his proceeding will stand quashed on the ground of non compliance of the court’s order.”

This “eight month” ended on July 29,2000 and the Bihar Reorganisation Act(BRA),2000 led to creation of Jharkhand.Singh got the Jharkhand cadre.

As per the Gazette of India dated March 28,2002,”If any vigilance enquiry or investigation is pending against any Officer of All India Services,it will be completed by the authorities of the State to which he has been allotted.”

Despite this,the Bihar vigilance department filed two FIRs in Patna against this Jharkhand cadre officer.The first FIR(007)lodged in Patna on August 2,2002,alleged that Singh among 11 persons indulged in criminal conspiracy and fraud to make fast buck.

”Singh misused his authority as BSFC’s MD, set up two NGOs- Samvedna and Green Earth-with a common set of office bearers:Kamla Prasad,IAS(Retired),ex CS,Bihar,Vayasji,IAS,as Vice President,Shravan Kumar,Advocate, BaldeoSingh,IAS and himself as President,opened their accounts in Patna and collected donations through seven cheques of amounts(total Rs 50,025),each varying between Rs 2500 to Rs 7500…The donations were given under his pressure and after or before the defaulters of the BSFC gained concessions from Singh”,alleged the FIR.

The second FIR registered(005) on March 31,2003 alleged that Singh caused a loss of Rs three crore to the exchequer by providing concessions to BSFC’s Digha based loanee M/S Lachhman wire Industries Ltd(LWIL) under the “One Time Settlement’scheme.

LWIL had taken a loan of Rs 26.7 lakh from the BSFC in between 1972 and 1975 with an undertaking to repay the amount within 20 years.

More than two decades later after the value of the loan shot up to Rs 4.28 crore in 1995,it was listed as a defaulter.As per the OTS scheme,10 percent of the total loan balance(which in its case turned out to be Rs 1.28 crore)had to be deposited with the BSFC as a prerequisite to seek benefit.But the company deposited Rs 12.5 lakh and his application seeking to pay a sum total of Rs 2.28 crore within ten years was allowed by Singh there by causing a loss of ‘crores of rupees’”,alleged the FIR.

Responding to these FIRs,Singh surrendered before the court only to be remanded in judicial custody.Remaining in jail for two months,he came out of it on bail in 2003.

Later,the Bihar government dropped inquiry into the FIR(005) and sought permission from the Jharkhand government to prosecute Singh in another FIR(007).But Jharkhand government which promoted him from the rank of joint secretary to secretary,quoting the BRA and the above Gazette of India declined to oblige its counterpart of Bihar.Even its vigilance department did not file any chargesheet against him.Result?

On May 15,2007,Justice Indu Prabha Singh disposed off a bunch of petitions providing a temporary relief to Singh.”These petitions are dismissed as infructuous.Since now no useful purpose will be served by granting further time to complete the investigation in a case(FIR 007)whose FIR has already been quashed.The petitions are disposed off accordingly”,said the court’s order.

In response,the Bihar government moved the Supreme Court with a petition challenging the Patna High Court’s order.In turn, on November 7,2007,the apex court issued an interim stay and ordered issuance of notices to the respondents including Singh.Notably,the notice that was to be served on Singh remained unexecuted after the lapse of about two and half years.

Finally,the Supreme Court disposed the case in favour of the Bihar Vigilance Department prompting the Jharkhand government reeling under the President’s rule to accord sanction to prosecute this retired IAS officer.

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