Story Behind Transfer of the Patna Municipal Commissioner

R K Singh


The special leave petition (SLP) of the Bihar of the Bihar Government challenging the order of the Hon’ble High Court that during the pendency of the vigilance cases initiated by the Municipal Commissioner  Patna , Kuldeep Narayan the government shall not transfer him without his orders has been rejected. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed the Bihar Government to approach the High Court and seek its permission. Knowledgeable people in the government were expecting this very outcome. As it is the government had no case; the High Court had not usurped the executive functions. It was a one off order especially in a matter which was of public interest and under scrutiny of High Court. The Municipal Commissioner and the registrar cooperative societies were trying to bring to account errant builders who had flouted building laws flagrantly and on a wide scale making a mockery of master plans etc.

In the recent past the tenure of the Municipal Commissioners   has sometime been a few months. After all the term of a civil servant is a minimum of two years so it was really surprising that the government should take up cudgels on behalf of the builders who were finding his term particularly uncomfortable. The lobby even threatened to quit Bihar en masse and the Bihar government did not actually cover itself with glory by being blackmailed into submission. Actually it was seen to be a puppet in the hands of the lobby whose membership is drawn from two of the major castes who run the government.

The government formulated its state litigation policy in April 2011 policy. The Para 6.4 of the document says that “     in service matters shall generally not be filed   in cases if it pertains to an individual grievance without major repercussions.” Of course this refers to a matter where the civil servant has won a case against the government but it lays down the principle. The bar to transferring an officer – in the light of several whimsical and premature transfers- who functioning is being monitored by the court can only be termed in the nature of an individual grievance without major repercussions.

The builders lobby has played havoc with the master plan of Patna through their paid agents in the government. One notable case is that of Mr. Senthil – notable because his case is in the public domain, but government and ruling party circles are agog with rumours about several municipal commissioners and a particular chief Fire Officer amassing hundreds of crores of rupees by sanctioning illegal plans. Mr. Senthil was extremely close to the powers that be; so he got all the good postings including collectorship of several districts. After having been tested for trust he was brought as Municipal Commissioner Patna where he played havoc. Later on during the period of transition when Lalan Singh ceased to be the closest and his place taken by a senior civil servant, some of the favourites of the powers that be played their cards unwisely or were late in switching loyalties.

Be that as it may the vigilance investigation bureau   was directed   by a letter no 76dated 11. 12. 09 of the CM Secretariat   to enquire into   a complaint alleging a whole lot of irregularities. Those who had their years close to the power circles were surprised as to how come that Senthil who was very close to a South Indian officer posted to a place of great   influence had come to grief. The general consensus was he was slow in shifting his loyalty or paying tribute to the ascendant power.   After long and painful inquiry the vigilance  registered  a case against   in all seventeen persons  which included  just about every one- the Commissioner , his additional commissioner , several executive engineers , state fire officer surveyor , assistant  etc . That is to say the corruption was whole sale and enmasse. The irregularities mentioned were approving plans on roads with a width of even up to 10 feet or less, unclear title, without proper clearance from airports authority, without clearance of the structural design etc etc. Nothing much happened to   the accused persons and the case dragged while the small fry were arrested, many got bails but the state fire officer who is supposed to be so powerful that even after the case he kept moving freely .

In 2011 Manoje Nath came to be the DG Home guards and initiated a comprehensive fire audit. Surprisingly none of the government buildings   - including the High Court, the Raj Bhavan, and the various secretariats had any fire protection. Even the medical college hospitals of the state were without fire protection systems. His letter to the government accessed by the author shows that out of 1594 multistoried apartment   whose initial plans were cleared only five of them have obtained adequate fire fighting capability after their completion. The letter itself says that these are the figures obtained from the fire department whose veracity cannot be certified because the state fire officer who has furnished these information is an FIR accused in a similar matter. In fact a home guard source said that despite the efforts of the successive DGs they could not get him removed. All of them wrote to the government that it is neither proper nor advisable for an FIR accused to be allowed to handle cash worth several crores which   the state fire officer did in his capacity head of department. The fire department was obviously the interested party but no third party fire audit has been carried out till date as suggested. The state does not even have a modern Fire Services Act to hold the builders accountable. The then DG home guard   Manoje Nath had suggested that the government immediately adopt the Delhi Fire Services Act which was the most modern and forward looking. Because while the government had   been deliberating over the matter for several decades now w the hazardous apartments which are not only dangerous to the residents themselves but the neighborhood also stood at risk  had come up in their hundreds . Any further delay would only increase the risk. Two years later the Act has not come into force till date to the best of our knowledge nor has third party audit   of the apartments has been carried out   as suggested

The plans were earlier cleared by the PRDA which comprised of engineers who were in the employ of the government. So they did adopt a modicum of caution, even though they were not averse to cutting corners for a fee, the process involved delay.   Sources in the know say that the government empowered private architects to approve plans. The builder lobby which had to spend  a significant  percentage for  greasing the palm of engineers of the government  passed it on to the architects  but they could cut delay  which saved  the cost of mobilizations of capital .   The rest as they say is history. Bihar is saddled with illegal buildings built in narrow lanes and streets clogging the flow of traffic with inadequate amenities, and potentially hazardous with no remedy in sight. There are musclemen builders supposedly close to the highest ruling clique who beat up municipal authorities   if they try to question them. It is in this context that the hon’ble high Court decided to intervene in public interest and passed that order against which the government moved the Supreme Court. No prizes for guessing whose side the government is on and for what considerations.

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