NEW DELHI: Upset over non-implementation of its order issued in September 2014, the Delhi High Court has initiated contempt of court proceedings against top officials of the Indian Coast Guard and the Defence Ministry earlier this week.
Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, who is the chief of the Mumbai-based Western Naval Command and the second senior-most officer in the Indian Navy, had drawn the Delhi HC’s ire last September for irregularities and favouritism in promotions and for “illegalities and arbitrariness” in reviewing the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of a subordinate officer when he was DG Coast Guard.
To make matters worse, despite the court’s order to undo the manipulations, no corrective measures have been taken so far. It all began in August 2009 when KPS Raghuvanshi, the Deputy Inspector General of the Indian Coast Guard, sought the court’s intervention after being superseded for a special post, which was created by the Cabinet Committee on Security after the 26/11 attack to enhance coastal security in 2009. Raghuvanshi has alleged the then-Director General of the Coast Guard Anil Chopra had manipulated his ACR and thereby deprived him of due promotion.
“We have no hesitation in holding that the Annual Confidential Report review of the Petitioner by the Respondent No. 2 (Vice Admiral Anil Chopra) … was both illegal and arbitrary and deserves to be ignored,” the order stated, slamming the then DG Coast Guard Anil Chopra for manipulating the ACR, introducing irregularities and disobeying the Ministry of Defence to give an out-of-turn promotion to an officer of his choice, over Raghuvanshi.
Raghuvanshi is the first Indian coast guard officer selected for the prestigious Naval War College, USA. After joining the Indian Coast Guard as assistant commandant in 1984, he stood first among DIGs and was shortlisted for National Command College, South Korea, in May 2006. He was awarded the Tatrakshak Medal by the President of India on August 15, 2007, for meritorious service.
Raghuvanshi’s lawyer Parma Nand alleged collusion between Admiral Chopra and Binoy Kumar, then joint secretary in the Ministry of Defense, to deny Raghuvanshi promotion. He said the joint secretary changed the rules, which can’t be done without Cabinet approval.
“But Chopra managed to get the joint secretary to approve it in June 2009, even after the Defence Secretary rejected the amendment,” Parma Nand told The Sunday Standard.
Expressing dismay that two high-ranking officials belonging to the IAS and the Indian Navy had played with the career of a bright officer against the written advice of the then defense secretary, double bench of the Delhi High Court, comprising of Justices Reva Khetrapal and Pratibha Rani, said the department arbitrarily changed rules to deny Raghuvanshi’s promotion. First, Admiral Chopra downgraded his ACR. Then Kumar “clandestinely” granted “post-facto” approval of new promotion rules to favor one Pande, in violation of rule books. “The records unambiguously support the case of the Petitioner that the existing ACR criteria … was amended clandestinely,” the court had said in its 2014 order.
“Since the said proposal was originally rejected at the level of Defence Secretary, the ‘post facto’ approval granted by the joint secretary … was without any authority and an attempt to ride rough shod over the orders passed by the Defence Secretary,” it said.
“The Coast Guard was given six weeks to award the promotion due to my client. But they have not complied with the order. So, we decided to move a contempt petition. On February 9, the court issued notices to the defence ministry as well as top officials of the Indian Coast Guard,” Parma Nand said.