Better late than never. Two corrupt Indian Administrative Services (IAS) Officers of Uttar Pradesh (UP) have finally been sentenced for their misdeeds. Neera Yadav, an IAS officer of the 1971 batch and ex- Chief Secretary of UP, and Rajiv Kumar, an IAS officer of the 1983 batch and Chief Secretary of UP, have been sentenced to 3 years imprisonment by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court for the Noida plot allotment scams. As a result of this verdict, there is a buzz among bureaucrats that the days when they could do as they please have come to an end. However, it must be remembered that by punishing merely two bureaucrats, nothing much is going to be solved. The entire bureaucracy is involved in corruption. The need of the hour is to look at the functioning of all the bureaucrats. Everybody knows that if the investigation of the scams in which bureaucrats like Neera Yadav and Rajiv Kumar were involved had not been suppressed for years, then many more bureaucrats would have been behind bars by now. The bureaucrats themselves have often prevented the investigations from moving forward. And yet, many of these bureaucrats have been posted in important and creamy posts!
Now, the conviction of Neera Yadav, an active IAS officer of her time and trusted by the Government, has created virtual chaos in the bureaucracy. Before Neera Yadav, another bureaucrat, Akhand Pratap Singh was sent to jail on corruption charges during his tenure as a Chief Secretary. He is presently out on bail, waiting for the sentence to be pronounced. It is also important to mention that the Uttar Pradesh (UP) IAS Association was fed up by with these corrupt bureaucrats and in 1997 the Association introduced a new ‘tradition’ in which the three most corrupt bureaucrats were selected through votes. Akhand Pratap Singh topped the list followed by Neera Yadav and Brijendra Yadav respectively. This is not the first time that Neera Yadav has been convicted. Before this, she was sentenced to four years imprisonment in 2010 by the CBI court in another Noida plot allotment case, namely the ‘Flex land scam.’ Neera Yadav had provided a 28000 square meters land to the Chairman of Flex Industries, Ashok Chaturvedi at Rs. 1200 per square metre, whereas the actual rate of the land was Rs. 1600 per square metre. Her name came forward in the Noida plot allotment scandal in 1994. At that time Neera was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the Noida Development Authority. Allegations were made that she had breached the law by allotting industrial plots not only to others but also in the names of her daughters, Suruchi and Sanskriti and had also illegally allotted land in her own name. For this also she was sent to jail. In this context, the Noida Entrepreneurs’ Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
On the orders of the Supreme Court, the CBI investigated the irregularities allegedly committed by Neera Yadav in the allotment of plots and lodged a report. The CBI lodged two different charge sheets in the court.
Rajiv Kumar was the then Deputy CEO of the Noida Development Authority. Rajiv was charged as he converted the alloted plot B-86/51 into A-36/44. Later on, he again converted it into A-27/14. Simultaneously, he alloted a 105 square metres ‘Green Belt’ land situated near the above mentioned plot in his own name. As soon as Rajiv was sentenced, the Akhilesh Government removed him from his post and put him on the waiting list for further posting.
The Noida plot allotment scandal was revealed nearly 15 years ago. The then CBI Director, Vijay Ramarao informed the Governor and the Cabinet Secretary in writing that IAS officer Neera Yadav, while holding the post of CEO and Chairman of the Noida Development Authority, had misused her post and alloted lands worth crores of rupees to her relatives. For investigating the matter, the then Governor Ramesh Bhandari formed a committee in 1997 under the Chairmanship of Justice Murtaza Hussain. The committee also pronounced her guilty. But the Kalyan Singh Government of that time didn’t take any steps in this matter. When the CBI demanded an investigation, then the Government tried to dismiss the matter by saying it was an ‘unnecessary’ case. However, thanks to the intervention of the Court, the case didn’t remain suppressed. The case was conducted in the CBI court in Ghaziabad and finally on 20 November 2012, Special Justice S. Lal convicted Neera Yadav and Rajiv Kumar to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh each.
Till Neera Yadav remained in service, she was clearly dominant. She was also the Chairperson of UP IAS Association. She was the first IAS officer who was removed from the post of Chief Secretary of UP by the Supreme Court in 2005 on charges of corruption. When she became trapped in the quagmire of corruption, she took the shelter of politics to save herself. She associated herself with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but after the conviction, all her ambitions have fallen flat.
By punishing merely two bureaucrats, nothing much is going to be solved. The entire bureaucracy is involved in corruption. The need of the hour is to look at the functioning of all the bureaucrats. Everybody knows that if the investigation of the scams in which bureaucrats like Neera Yadav and Rajiv Kumar were involved had not been suppressed for years, then many more bureaucrats would have been behind bars by now.
There are nearly a dozen bureaucrats in UP who are corrupt. Some cases have been proved in the court whereas some cases are still pending. An IAS officer of the 1980 batch, Tulsi Gaud was also removed from the post of Managing Director (MD) of the UP Export Corporation for misusing his post. This affected his promotion and he retired at the post of a Secretary. IAS officer V.S. Lal, Siddharth Behura, K. Dhanlakshmi, Vijay Shankar Pandey, Shashi Bhushan and Mahesh Gupta were also embroiled in controversies. Likewise, an IAS officer of the 1981 batch, Pradeep Shukla, also went to jail due to his involvement in the NHRM (National Rural Health Mission) scam.
For providing details of their assets, IAS officers are not required to seek permission from the Court or the Central Government. A law has already been made for this. According to rule No. 24 of the UP Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1956, at the time of appointment and then after every five years, the Government officials must provide information about the assets owned by them, acquired by them, received as donation or which is kept on lease. The IAS officers have to provide the above information in form No. 16B in which they have to provide a full description about the assets which belong to them, their family members or any other person related to them. They have to provide information about a house or any land which has been brought or received as a paternal asset. While giving the judgement in the Roshan Lal versus Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central School) case, the Central Information Commission (CIC) even said that the Annual Property Return comes under the public domain. Hence there is no reason found for which the details of the property should be kept secret. The CIC said in his judgement that the information on assets and properties can enable the CIC to control corruption in Government Departments.
The Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission also gave a judgement against IAS officers Atul Kumar Gupta, Mahesh Gupta, Dev Dutt, Lalit Srivastava, Chanchal Tiwary, Ayan Trivedi, Ravindra Nayak, Rajan Shukla and Chandra Prakash when the State Department of Appointment and Personnel refused to provide information about their property and assets. Prosecutor Brijesh Mishra once asked for information about the amounts that are given to IAS officers as salary, allowances and other items. The State Department of Appointment and Personnel said that the information about the assets and property of IAS officers comes under the personal information section. Hence it cannot be provided. But the then State Information Commissioner, Gyanendra Sharma, disagreed with this and said that, according to rule No. 2 (I) of the RTI Act it is compulsory for all Government officials to provide information about their personal assets. So it is an undisputed fact that the information about the assets of the officials should be recorded in the respective Departments and in the Public Authority Office.
The order given by the State Information Commission seemed to be exasperating for the then BSP Government and bureaucrats. That is why they obtained a stay order against this decision from the High Court. This case is still pending in the Court. On one the hand the State Department of Appointment and Personnel is trying to take the help of the Court for IAS officers not providing information about their assets. On the other hand some over-zealous State bureaucrats are writing letters to the Central Government disclosing their assets in an attempt to win plaudits from the Government.
However, the image of bureaucrats is good neither in the eyes of the public nor in those of the Samajwadi Government. This is clear from the statements made from time to time by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his Ministers. In such a situation, it is necessary for bureaucrats to take initiatives to improve their image. The conviction of corrupt bureaucrats is a good initiative and we hope this will lead to more potent steps.