In a first, the Indian Railways has quietly started terminating the services of officers who have been convicted in corruption cases. In the past six months, four senior officers from zonal railways across the country have been removed from service, signalling a new, tough stance that the government will no longer allow convicted officers to continue enjoying salaries and perks while they fight court cases against their conviction.
A list of 30 officers has been prepared at all levels across India, including Joint Secretary grade, who stand convicted by the CBI for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, like taking bribes and possessing assets disproportionate to their income.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently remarked that strict action must be taken against all railway officers under the scanner of the CBI and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
For years, the Indian Railways has been topping the CVC list of corruption complaints against government officers. This year, the list saw a 67 per cent jump with Railways topping the list with 11,000 complaints in the total pool of 49,847 complaints across the government.
P K Jena, a Deputy Chief Engineer from the Indian Railway Civil Engineering cadre from the East Coast Railway, was handling the laying of tracks before his transfer. He was convicted by a CBI court in a disproportionate assets case.
Dr Ravi Kansal, an Assistant Chief Medical Superintendent based in Lucknow and later Amritsar, was convicted of accepting a bribe of Rs 1,000 from a railwayman for issuing a “fake” sickness certificate. Dr N Suresh from South Western Railway had a similar case.
Vaibhav Chouhan, a Deputy Chief Personnel Officer from the Indian Railway Personnel Service in West Central Railway, and later shifted to South East Central Railway, was looking after the human resource vertical of a division. He was booked for accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a “bungalow peon” to regularise his appointment. The bribe demand, as per the CBI chargesheet, was for Rs 2 lakh.
All these officers had been fighting legal battles for years in CBI courts before their conviction.
Only Kansal of the Northern Railway could be reached but he declined to comment on the case. “It was a conspiracy and a trap. Beyond that I have nothing to say,” he said.
In the past one month, notices for removal from service have been served on two civil engineering officers who approached the Central Administrative Tribunal and got the notices stayed. The Railway Board, sources said, was moving fast on their cases. An officer in the North Eastern Railway was removed from service after a departmental probe recommended “major penalty” on a corruption charge.
The Railway Board, sources said, took legal opinion and the official consent of the Union Public Service Commission to arrive at the conclusion that a “stay on arrest” is not acquittal — some officers had got stay on arrest — and these convictions in CBI cases warrant removal from service.
“Let the officers fight their cases in appeals. If they are acquitted eventually, the government may consider giving them their jobs back. But until then, they cannot remain in service… the rules are clear,” a top officer on the Railways Board said.