New Delhi: In an unprecedented move, the Delhi Cabinet on Friday passed resolutions, challenging Lt Governor Najeeb Jung's authority to relieve the VAT Commissioner who it alleged was targeted for "fighting graft", and appointed a GoM to protect bureaucrats from "political victimisation".
In the first resolution, the Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asked Jung to explain the "compelling circumstances" which forced him to transfer Vijay Kumar and wanted to know whether it was linked to the raids the bureaucrat carried out against 200 fraudulent companies as well as on an international food chain.
The Cabinet posed four specific questions to the LG which included whether it was true that he had summoned Kumar after passing his relieving order and threatened him to leave Delhi immediately and that whether he received written or oral instructions from PMO or MHA to relieve the tax official.
Rebutting the charges, the LG's Secretariat said Jung acted on the basis of orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs. It said Home Ministry on 9 October had issued directions that five officers who were earlier transferred from Delhi to other Union Territories since should be relieved with immediate effect. It said Kumar's name figured among these five officers.
Talking about reports of alleged intimidation of officers by the LG, Jung's office said it did not wish to comment on the issue in view of "several episodes of poor treatment" meted out by the elected government to the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Power Secretary and Law Secretary and others.
In the second resolution, the Cabinet decided to appoint a GoM which will protect officers from political victimisation and authorised it to take all steps required to deal with such issues including providing legal support at government's cost.
The Cabinet slammed Jung for relieving Kumar without consulting the elected government and said, "Unilateralism is one thing. Acting outside the remit of one's own powers is another.
"It requires special mention here that LG does not have the powers to relieve officers. It is the elected executive, which alone has the power to do so. Therefore, such action on the part of LG was also an illegal and invalid exercise of power," a resolution passed by the Cabinet said.
In a statement, the government said Kumar had raided a well-connected trader in Old Delhi, an international food chain and a politically powerful dealer of automobiles. The last VAT raid under his leadership was on the night of September 30.
"In this raid, as many as 200 fraudulent companies that existed only on paper, were discovered. These companies have been found to be involved in massive and organised tax evasions," it said.
The AAP government alleged an international hawala dealer, wanted by the Interpol, is suspected to be behind the network of 200 companies and that details of the case have been shared with the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate.
It said that in the last 23 years, never before had any LG directly relieved an officer.
The Cabinet felt the VAT Commissioner had taken several important and "crucial steps to prevent large scale tax theft and began a crack-down against organised tax evasion syndicates".
"Clearly, there ought to be extremely compelling reasons which made LG to take such an extraordinary and unprecedented step," said the government.
The LG's office, however, clarified that there has never been any recommendation from the LG's Secretariat to the Ministry of Home Affairs requesting for transfer of any of the five officers.
Holding that public perception about the transfer was that there was manipulation by extraneous forces, the AAP government said an honest and transparent dispensation cannot remain oblivious to popular perceptions and disregard the public mood.
"This government cannot allow the vested interests, however powerful that they be, to call shots," it said.
In the second resolution, the Cabinet "took a serious view" of the fact that several senior officers have informed the government that "they had been summoned by LG and were threatened of dire consequences including police action by instituting bogus inquiries against them if they refuse to partake in the exercise of obstructing the functioning of Delhi government."
"These officers were told to paralyse the elected Aam Aadmi Party government by making adverse and obstructionist file notings against the government's decisions.
"The government has been further informed that the above mentioned intimidating and coercive tactics adopted by the LG have intensified over the last one month," the resolution said.
It said "it has also been brought to the notice of the government that the Hon'ble LG has been misusing the names of top officials of the central government to pressurise the officers to act in an illegal manner.
"It has been brought to the notice of the government that in case the officers did not acquiesce, they would invite the wrath of the central government and their civil service careers would be destroyed."
The Cabinet felt it was a "clear attempt to subvert the functioning of a democratically elected government which had come to power with a thumping majority."
The GoM will be chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and will consist of Home Minister Satyendar Jain and Transport Minister Gopal Rai as members. Principal Secretary (Services) will be Secretary to the GOM.