The Delhi High Court Monday upheld a Central Administrative Tribunal’s order which had revoked on July 1 this year the 12-year-long suspension of controversial Indian Revenue Service officer Ashok Aggarwal, facing a CBI probe into several cases against him.
A bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Manmohan Singh upheld the CAT’s order to revoke Enforcement Directorate’s former Deputy Director Aggarwal’s suspension, dismissing the Centre’s appeal against it and saying that “the test to probity of a civil servant must not become a test to his patience.”
Supporting the 50-page order to its hilt, the bench said, “By a well-considered and a well-reasoned decision spanning 50 pages, the CAT has quashed the decision taken by the Special Review Committee (of finance ministry) and as we agree with the decision of the Tribunal on each count, we refrain from penning a lengthy decision.
The Special Review Committee’s recommendation to continue with Aggarwal’s suspension had the endorsement of erstwhile Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Rejecting the government’s argument that Aggarwal had committed the crime while he was discharging his duty, the bench said, “A civil servant is accountable for his acts during discharge of official duties, no one can deny it.”
“But, it also has to be kept in mind that the process of accountability cannot be stretched indefinitely, i.E., it should not become a process where the probity of the civil servant is not being tested but it is his patience which is being tested.”
The tribunal on July 1, while ordering revocation of Aggarwal’s suspension, had said the 1985 batch officer, who is facing cases of disproportionate assets, cannot be kept on suspension “endlessly”.
Aggarwal was suspended in 1999 and the CAT had first quashed his suspension in 2003, but the Department in April 2003 had suspended him again and it was set aside by the CAT in July this year.
The CAT had revoked Aggarwal’s suspension saying the ministry had not complied with its December 16, 2011 order to convene a review committee meeting to decide if his suspension should be revoked.
The government while opposing Aggarwal’s plea for revocation of his suspension had contended before the Tribunal that he was a “resourceful accused” who was consistently trying to use his clout for undue benefits and had also filed close to 27 petitions against the CBI and its officers in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court.
The Tribunal had rejected the government’s contentions saying the criminal proceedings against the IRS officer had been stayed by the apex court.
It had also said, “At the present stage the criminal and departmental proceedings are pending and there is no indication of the completion of those cases in near future.
“On the other hand, if the applicant proves his innocence in both departmental and criminal proceedings, it would be injustice for such an officer to continue under suspension for such a long period.”
The tribunal had directed that he be posted in a “non-sensitive post” where he would not have any access to the relevant records or the opportunity to influence witnesses.