With the high court notice on February 25, Nadda became the first minister in the nine-month-old National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to be embroiled in a corruption-related court case. The petition was filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, with Prashant Bhushan as the lawyer.
The court has also made Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the forest official who was controversially removed as the chief vigilance officer of AIIMS by the NDA government, a party to the case.
The case is expected to add to the political headache of the NDA government in the Chaturvedi case. After it removed Chaturvedi as the anti-graft officer at AIIMS, the central government also denied his change of parent cadre from Haryana to Uttarakhand, despite approval from both states and other agencies. Chaturvedi challenged these orders in the Central Administrative Tribunal and got a stay against the orders of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by the prime minister.
In the meanwhile, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal demanded from the Centre that Chaturvedi be permitted to work as an officer on special duty in the Delhi chief minister’s office. But, after initially promising quick response, the environment ministry — the cadre-controlling authority for forestry service — also dragged its feet on Kejriwal’s request.
The petition before the high court on Wednesday said Nadda repeatedly asked his party colleague and then health minister Harsh Vardhan to remove Chaturvedi, while the latter was investigating more than three dozen cases of serious corruption in the medical institute.
The petitioners attached Nadda’s letter, asking Vardhan to put investigations of corruption in AIIMS to be put on hold and to appoint a new CVO of his choice.
The petitioners have alleged that Nadda, after replacing Vardhan as the health minister, had slowed down the investigations in to these corruption cases. Some of the cases involve a senior Himachal cadre IAS, Vineet Chaudhary, who has worked with Nadda at the state, and petitioners alleged the former is close to the minister. Under the law, the health minister is the disciplinary authority in all such cases and further regarding criminal cases and in direct control of the post of CVO of AIIMS, too.
Records of the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission show that myriad corruption cases under investigations involving senior government officials of the government and doctors at AIIMS. It includes the present director of AIIMS, two ex-deputy directors of the institute, the registrar, the chief administrative officers, heads of departments, the head of the engineering wing and several other officials.
The cases include investigations into the sale of fake medicines worth lakhs at the pharmacy in AIIMS and corruption in the purchase of equipment at the premier institute.
The petitioner has asked that besides Nadda recusing himself, the court should seek the status of all these cases and ensure expeditious investigations. The plea also asks that the court direct a CBI investigation into the disappearance of documents that recorded the appointment under UPA and then repeated attempts to dismantle the chief vigilance officer’s post at AIIMS.
The court has given Nadda, the CBI, the health ministry and Chaturvedi a month to respond to the PIL.
Major cases of alleged corruption in AIIMS where investigations are on by various agencies
- Allegedly unauthorised foreign travel by AIIMS senior faculty
- Radiation therapy at AIIMS for the dog of an ex-deputy director AIIMS
- Appointment of consultants at AIIMS
- Costly renovation of offices
- Sale of ‘fake’ medicines at institute’s pharmacy
- Alleged financial irregularities in purchase of surgical department and department of lab medicine
- Hiring of security services from private agencies
- Purchase of uniforms for employees
- Scam in procurement at computer facility
- Appointments of officials under sports quota
- Contracts for printing and publishing by academic section
- ‘Fake’ bills by doctor during certification of private hospitals
- Alleged tampering with selection lists of operation theatre assistants
- Disproportionate assets case against store officer
- Construction at surgical block
- Leaking of AIIMS exam documents to private publisher
- ‘Fake’ caste certificates scam
- Extension to officials