In a setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court today upheld an Uttarakhand High Court verdict holding that the centre and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) administration treated Indian Forest Service official Sanjeev Chaturvedi in a "vindictive" manner after he highlighted several instances of alleged corruption in the premier medical institute nearly five years ago.
The top court also upheld payment of the Rs 25,000 fine directed by the high court, and imposed an additional penalty of a like amount on the centre.
Mr Chaturvedi, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, was the Chief Vigilance Officer on central deputation at AIIMS a few years ago when he received a poor appraisal report. Upon moving the principal bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal against the report, the Union government reportedly "misled" it into staying the proceedings. The high court bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari found the centre's attitude "vindictive", and quashed the order through which the proceedings were stayed.
According to the high court, the centre had "surreptitiously" moved an application for stay of proceedings before the tribunal's Nainital bench while the whistleblower was away in Finland on foreign training. Mr Chaturvedi claims that Union Minister JP Nadda played a key role in ensuring his removal from AIIMS.
The petition filed by Mr Chaturvedi in the high court claimed that he had exposed several instances of corruption in the medical institution's surgery department, engineering projects and purchases in the trauma centre. However, he ended up treading on a few toes in the process.
Mr Chaturvedi, who currently serves as the Conservator of Forests (Research) at Haldwani, has made a reputation for himself as a honest officer. A year after he was relieved of his duties at AIIMS, over 250 faculty members, researchers and scientists at the medical institution requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reinstate him. In 2016, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal unsuccessfully tried to get the whistleblower appointed as his officer on special duty.