CHENNAI: The Chennai bench of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) quashed the appeal of an employee of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) who had moved the tribunal to set aside disciplinary proceedings initiated against her on corruption charges.
P Sulochna, a personal assistant at the NHAI’s regional office moved the CAT, submitting that she joined service in Feb 2004 and was directed to make an official visit to Jaipur in Sept 2009 as part of one of NHAI projects in association with an NGO working for mentally challenged kids.
Under the directions of SS Singhvi, chief general manager and regional officer of NHAI, she signed a land document presuming it to be a part of the project work. Sulochana received `1 lakh from the officer to meet her financial situation.
Subsequently, the Anti- Corruption Branch of CBI registered an FIR against Singhvi, and an inquiry was held in December 2009. CBI seized a receipt of `1 lakh and land documents from Sulochana’s office.
In her statement to CBI, she said the receipt was for the amount which a contractor had voluntarily donated to the NGO. The land documents were for a property which was purchased in Sulochana’s name without her knowledge. Though CBI did not initiate any proceedings against her, the NHAI punished her by withholding her promotion for two years. After she filed an appeal, the chairman of NHAI modified the order, and promoted her retrospectively. She was also provided notional increments without actual monetary benefits. Sulochana then moved the CAT stating that the order was passed without a proper inquiry.
Countering her arguments, counsel for NHAI argued that the vigilance department of NHAI had found her guilty of accepting donations from contractors and acquiring immovable property purchased by third party in her name. Hence, she was awarded the punishment. The order of punishment, however, was later modified.
The bench comprising judicial member K Elango and administrative member P Prabhakaran said, “Sulochana was provided with sufficient opportunity to represent herself. Also, the entire investigation were done on the basis of documentary evidences like property documents. As the punishment order were passed according to rules, Sulochana’s petition was devoid of merit.”