New Delhi: The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday, May 18, stayed the arrest of senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Ashok Khemka in connection with a first information report (FIR) filed against him over alleged irregularities that took place in recruitment made during his tenure as managing director of the Haryana State Warehousing Corporation (HSWC) 12 years ago, Indian Express has reported.
Considering Khemka’s contention that the said FIR was “legally null and void” as it was registered without the prior approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, the court said, “Considering that as per the amended provisions, no enquiry/inquiry or investigation can be initiated without prior sanction, arrest of the petitioner is stayed. However, he shall continue to join investigation if called for.”
The particular provision of the PC Act mandates that police cannot initiate an inquiry against a public servant in relation to decisions taken by them in discharge of their duty without the prior approval of the competent authority.
The senior IAS officer had approached the high court with a prayer to quash the FIR registered against him on April 20 under Section 13 (criminal misconduct by public servant) of the PC Act and Section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code at Panchkula’s Sector 5 police station. The FIR was registered after Sanjeev Verma, the current MD of HSWC, alleged irregularities in the recruitment of two manager Grade-I officials (a class-III post) in HSWC in 2010. Verma also dismissed both the officials, Pradip Kumar and Surinder Singh, on April 20.
Khemka’s counsel challenged the FIR on several counts. They told the court that the allegations in FIR “even if taken to be gospel truth” do amount to any offence under any penal provision, by saying that the eligibility of candidates was verified by a screening committee and selection was done by an executive committee. They further said issuing appointment letters by Khemka was “merely a follow-up ministerial act” and hence singling him out only indicated “mala fide” intentions.
Khemka’s lawyers further went on to say that the same allegations were already probed into by the police in 2016, 2017 and 2018 where the investigating authorities could not come up with any offence. They also drew the attention of the court that although the present case was registered in 2020, authorities did not obtain the necessary approval required as per the PC Act.
The court also issued a notice to the Haryana government for August 4, the next date of hearing.
It maybe recalled that an hour after Verma lodged an FIR against Khemka on April 20, the latter registered an FIR against the former on the charges of criminal conspiracy and fabrication of official documents.
Subsequently, Verma wrote to the state government requesting the transfer of the FIR registered against him by Khemka and the one registered against Khemka on his complaint to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a probe.