The Kerala High Court on Thursday sought an explanation from the state for restricting deputation period of officers in the Vigilance Wing of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), saying a system without vigilance cannot be permitted. The high court said that there was "absolutely no justification" for restricting the deputation period of three officers of the vigilance wing to January 20, 2022 when even the state's police chief in September last year had recommended extension of their term for one year.
Presently, the vigilance wing has been functioning with a Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) and an officer of the rank of Sub-Inspector, the court noted and said, "If the state or the Board think they can have a system without any vigilance, that cannot be permitted." It directed the state government and TDB to inform the court on Friday why it was not informed about expiry of the deputation period of the three officers and why their term was restricted to January 20, especially when the vigilance wing has detected various irregularities, including theft and misappropriation, in the Board.
A bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and P G Ajithkumar said it had recently, in another matter, extended the term of the CVO till March 31 and even at that time neither the state nor the TDB informed the court that deputation period of several officers of the vigilance wing was coming to an end. "In such circumstances, we find absolutely no justification on the part of the government in limiting the period of deputation of the officers till January 20, 2022. Now, there is a CVO without supporting officers," the bench said.
The observations and direction of the bench came while hearing a petition initiated by the court on its own over the issues of corruption in submission of bills by the Board in relation to food provided to dignitaries staying at the Sabarimala guest house and the alleged disbanding of the vigilance wing, which were highlighted in a news report. The proceedings were initiated on the basis of the news article and a report was called for from the Special Commissioner, Sabarimala.
The Special Commissioner, in his report dated February 2 and which was placed before the court on Thursday, said the State Police Chief had recommended extension of the deputation period of officers in the vigilance wing for a year, but the state government restricted it to January 20 and there was no request from the Board to extend their tenure. According to the news report referred to by the high court, the vigilance had found inflated bills for food that was provided to the dignitaries and higher officials staying in the Sabarimala guest house.
With PTI Inputs