VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday set aside the suspension of senior IPS officer and former intelligence chief AB Venkateswara Rao and directed the State government to immediately reinstate him besides paying him salary for the duration of his suspension — from February 8 this year.
Dismissing GO. 18 and quashing the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order dated March 17 that upheld his suspension, a division bench comprising Justice Rakesh Kumar and Justice S Jayasurya ruled that as per Rule No.3 of the All India Services, an officer can be suspended only if a chargesheet was filed, which did not happen in this case. However, in partial relief to the government, the bench directed it to probe the charges against the officer.
AB Venkateswara Rao was accused by the State government of committing irregularities in the aborted procurement of Aerostat and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at a cost of `25.50 crore under the Modernisation of Police Forces Scheme in 2017-18.
It alleged that M/s Akasam Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd, whose CEO was none other than the officer’s son, participated in the procurement process on behalf of RT Inflatables, an Israeli company, and the same was not communicated by the officer. It also accused ABV of other irregularities such as failure to engage a consultant or expert, flouting the mandatory requirement of preparing EoI, scaling down warranty period and technical specifications of Aerostat and UAV, and modifying payment conditions etc.
Venkateswara Rao had earlier moved the CAT but the latter ruled that he could appeal to the Centre against the State government’s decision to suspend him and said the State government could suspend him even though a charge memo had not been filed if it believedthat disciplinary action must be taken. The High Court set aside the CAT’s verdict on a petition filed by Venkateswara Rao.
During the course of the hearing, ABV’s advocate Adinarayana argued that the State government was vindictive towards his client and said the fact that he was not paid his salary for eight months proved the same.He pointed out that All India Service rules were disregarded while suspending him and even violated the norm that State government should take action only after informing the Central government.
Advocate General S Sriram contended that it was unfair to demand that his suspension be revoked when a probe was on. “If he is reinstated at this stage, there is a possibility of interference in the probe,” he said. He also argued that ABV’s admission that he had signed the files without looking closely was as good as a confession of irregularity.