Facing court wrath, AP IAS officers reach out to CM
Amaravati, May 1 : Indian Administrative Service officers of Andhra Pradesh are an aggrieved lot, what with the High Court breathing down their necks and hauling them up for contempt.
There is consternation among the IAS ranks, caused by friction with the legal profession, which is now threatening to affect the overall administration.
The AP IAS Association presented its case to Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, asking him to take immediate “corrective action” and safeguard the dignity of the cadre.
On March 31, eight IAS officers, including two of the Special Chief Secretary rank, were found guilty of ‘contempt of court’ and ordered to render social service in welfare hostels for a year.
Recently, a young IAS officer was sentenced to six months in jail in a contempt case, though he was never a party in it.
Last year, five bureaucrats were held in contempt and sentenced to jail, though it was later suspended.
The IAS Association took up the issue seriously and made its case with the Chief Minister and sought immediate action.
A delegation of senior IAS officers recently conferred with the Chief Minister and told him that what was happening was not good and “certainly not in the good interests of any one.”
“It’s not just the question of individuals, but the whole system is crumbling because of the series of happenings. This needs to be fixed urgently,” the bureaucrats told the Chief Minister.
“Punishment to an individual officer is punishment to the government itself,” they averred.
The main grievance of the IAS officers was that they were being completely let down by none other than the Government Pleaders (GPs), who were failing to put up fair arguments in the cases, leading to unsavoury outcomes.
GPs, incidentally, are purely political appointments, with merit not being a criterion. For every appearance in court, on behalf of the government department concerned, each GP gets paid Rs 10,000 to Rs one lakh.
“In every case where the IAS officers were hauled up by the court, the failure of the GP concerned is glaring. In many cases the GPs looked clearly lost in front of the judge, resulting in an adverse ruling (in contempt cases), despite compliance with the court orders,” several IAS officers pointed out.
In one case where a Principal Secretary-rank officer was facing the court, the GP concerned simply stood “smiling” when the judge asked, “Should I send him (IAS officer) to jail or ask him to do social service?”
As far as the young IAS officer was concerned, when the contempt case came up before the judge, the GP concerned did not even attend the court, leading to the jail sentence.
In another instance, a judge issued non-bailable warrant to a Special Chief Secretary as the GP skipped the case hearing.
“Such instances are one too many. We are facing the (court’s) music because of the indifference and inefficiency of the GPs,” a top IAS officer pointed out.
The problem is not all with the advocates alone as in majority of the contempt cases the government’s own finance department is at fault.
“The inordinate delay by the finance department in making payments to contractors, and also retired employees, is resulting in contempt cases and punishment of officers. The Special Chief Secretary (Finance) was himself in the dock several times but yet things seem to have not changed,” the top bureaucrat said.
The IAS delegation explained this to the Chief Minister and sought corrective action as otherwise it was affecting the morale of the officers, leaving an adverse impact on the administration.
“In cases where officers are facing contempt, we wanted the government to allow engagement of private lawyers for effective argument and avoid penal action. The neighbouring Telangana government has earmarked a special budget for such cases and we too need similar financial backing of the government,” the delegation told the CM.
Among other things, the bureaucrats suggested that the government re-open the informal channel of engagement with the judges through regular social gatherings.
“In the last three years such engagement has been completely cut off. The confrontationist stance taken by the ruling party has only widened the chasm, which needs to be bridged,” a top IAS officer noted.
When this was broached with the Chief Minister, he concurred with the bureaucrats’ view and promised to work in that direction.
The Chief Minister asked the Chief Secretary to coordinate things in this regard.