HYDERABAD: The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) bench, Hyderabad, on Friday refused to stay the order released by the Andhra Pradesh government suspending senior IPS officer AB Venkateswara Rao for his alleged involvement in the “irregularities” in the procurement of security equipment, while he was working as additional director general of police from July 2015 to March 2019.
The bench directed the State government to file a counter-affidavit on the issue and posted the matter to February 24 for further hearing.
The bench comprising member BV Sudhakar passed the order, while considering the petition filed by Venkateswara Rao challenging his suspension by the AP government, vide GO 18 dated February 8.
Senior counsel G Vidya Sagar, appearing for Rao, told the bench that the State government has not followed the due procedure while suspending the All India Service officer posted in AP.
In fact, the State government has no power to directly suspend an IPS officer. The order impugned is liable to be set aside since the rules mandate that a copy of suspension order along with reasons and grounds of suspension should be communicated to the Centre within 48 hours.
The government has passed the suspension orders in violation of Rule 3 of All India Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 and principles of natural justice. Further, the government has failed to release the salary dues and other monetary benefits to the IPS officer since May 31 last year, he pointed out. The senior officer has been subjected to mental harassment by not giving any posting and salary, he added and urged the court to grant stay on the suspension order.
When the bench sought response from the State government, senior counsel D Prakash Reddy, appearing for the AP government, submitted that there was an amendment to Rule 3, and that the State government has powers to suspend an officer facing allegations as per recent judgment of the Supreme Court. The officer was suspended as part of the disciplinary proceedings. No stay should be granted in the present case as the case investigation is at a preliminary stage. If stay is granted, the ongoing probe will be affected, he argued.
Intervening, the bench asked the government counsel whether the State government has consulted the Centre prior to its decision or informed its decision to it later. The government counsel sought some time for filing counter affidavit on all the above issues.
As for as payment of salary arrears, he said that the government has taken a decision on it and there is no need to pass any interim orders on it.When the petitioner’s counsel urged the bench to pass specific orders granting stay on suspension and for release of arrears, the bench refused to consider the plea and posted the matter to February 24 to decide as to whether the present case has to be adjudicated by a two-member bench or not and on granting stay orders.
In the GO No 18, Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney said Rao’s suspension was based on a report submitted by Director General of Police (Head of Police Force) Gautam Sawang, alleging “serious misconduct” in the process of procurement of security equipment.
A leaked ‘confidential’ report on Rao, considered the ‘Man Friday’ of previous chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, said, “Rao wilfully disclosed intelligence protocols and procedures of police to a foreign defence manufacturing firm. This is a direct threat to national security.”