NEW DELHI -- In an unprecedented escalation of tension, the Delhi Cabinet today passed resolutions against Lt Governor Najeeb Jung asking him to explain the "compelling circumstances" behind relieving the VAT commissioner and appointed a GoM to protect bureaucrats from "political victimisation" and alleged threats.
A meeting of the Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, expressed deep concern over the "sudden, abrupt and unexplained" transfer of VAT Commissioner Vijay Kumar, alleging that he was shunted out for acting against an international food chain and a politically powerful dealer of automobiles besides raiding around 200 fraudulent companies.
The cabinet resolution claimed that several senior officials told the government that they had been summoned by the LG and were threatened of dire consequences, including police action if they refuse to partake in the exercise of obstructing the functioning of the administration.
"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 said in an official statement, giving details of the Cabinet meeting.
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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 October 9 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.
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.
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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 the statement, the government said Kumar had raided a well-connected trader in Old Delhi, a global food chain and a politically powerful dealer of automobiles. The last VAT raid under his leadership was on the night of September 30.
The AAP government alleged an international hawala dealer, wanted by 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 never before in the past 23 years had any LG directly relieved an officer.
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Accusing the LG of targeting officials, the government said it was brought to its notice 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."
"This government will extend its full support to any officer in case he faces any political victimisation or witch-hunt. The government and the Cabinet will stand behind its officers to defend their bona fide decisions," it said.
The Cabinet also slammed the LG for refusing to accept the government's recommendation of an IAS officer to replace Kumar on the ground that he was junior for the post. The government had sent the name of Ankur Garg for the post which was rejected by Jung.
It said the government has set the target of VAT collection at Rs 24,000 crore this fiscal and that it has absolutely no problems if the LG was ready to meet the tax collection targets.
"Then he can appoint officers of his choice and run the VAT department in the manner he deems fit. The government is willing to hand over the VAT department to LG, if he accepts to meet VAT targets," said the government.
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.
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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.
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.