DIMAPUR, JUNE 23: The Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court on Thursday set aside and quashed a letter issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the Additional Director General of Police (Administration), Nagaland, Sandeep M Tamgadge.
Almost two years since Tamgadge had filed the writ petition on July 13, 2020, Justice Robin Phukan delivered a judgment on the case, observing that the CBI letter “appears to have been issued without application of mind and the same is not in conformity with administrative fair play”.
According to Court records, the CBI had issued a letter on March 4, 2020, to the Chief Secretary of Nagaland containing three points: that a CBI recommendation for departmental action against Tamgadge, the then Superintendent of Police, CBI, AC-III, New Delhi, was forwarded to Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for its first stage advice; however, the CVC has observed that the version/explanation of charged officer (Tamgadge) has not been obtained on the charges/misconduct, particularly at Sl. No. (iii) to (v) made against him and further advised to obtain the same for the aforesaid purpose; and it is, therefore, requested that the version/explanation of the charged officer on the charges made against him may be taken within the 30 days and forwarded to CBI for further necessary action.
In the writ petition, Tamgadge had challenged this particular letter.
The “factual background”, as listed in the Court document, shows that Tamgadge was on CBI deputation and while he was posted as Head of Branch (HoB)/SP, Anti-Corruption Branch, at Nagpur, a case was registered on September 12, 2013 under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against Harshvardhan Nanoti, an Income Tax Officer at Khamgaon, Maharashtra, and another person named Rajendra Jaiswal, a businessman.
During the course of investigation, the then Dy. SP of CBI, Nagpur, Vijay Kumar had conducted a search at the residence of Jaiswal and seized “currency, gold ornaments, etc.” The items were then kept at the Branch store on October 2, 2013.
Two days later, the then Dy. SP submitted a proposal to keep the seized items at the official bank locker maintained by CBI, Nagpur, at Punjab National Bank. On October 5, 2013, he called the son of Jaiswal to CBI office in Nagpur and in his presence, drew a memo about the seized items and after completion of the investigation, filed the final report.
But on July 22, 2014, a Special Court ordered to release the seized items. But when the locker was opened, “it came to the notice of CBI officials about discrepancies of gold jewellery”. Thus the CBI officials informed this to Tamgadge, who then relayed it to his senior officer, the Head of Zone at Bhopal.
Thereafter, Vijay Kumar, the then Dy. SP, was summoned to clarify the issue but he “could not explain the loss/discrepancy of gold jewellery”. So, Tamgadge submitted a complaint to the senior officer for registering a case in connection with the missing items.
After completion of investigation, the CBI unit at New Delhi had sent the report to Nagaland Government. The report while recommending prosecution against Vijay Kumar, had also recommended Regular Departmental Action (RDA) for major proceedings under relevant AIS (Disciplinary & Conduct) Rules against Tamgadge.
In response, Tamgadge gave his explanation to the Memorandum of Charges “refuting each and every charge levelled against him with a cogent reason”. Thereafter, the explanation was processed by Nagaland Government and the competent authority, via a letter issued on February 1, 2018, “found the reply of the petitioner (Tamgadge) just and fair and the allegations were not substantiated”.
But two years later, he was again charged with a letter dated June 15, 2020, by Nagaland Police who were acting on the CBI letter issued on March 4, 2020.
“Then on receipt of the same, the petitioner found that there are no new grounds or allegations/charges which are different than the earlier Article of Charges and thereafter, the petitioner has filed an RTI from the competent authority and got information that the procedure was completed and the petitioner was exonerated from the alleged charges”, it stated.
Aggrieved at this, Tamgadge filed a writ petition before the Kohima Bench on July 13, 2020.
It is worth mentioning that Tamgadge was the Chief Investigating Officer in the Sohrabuddin encounter case (Gujarat, 2005). Recently, he had led the Nagaland Police SIT probe into the Oting massacre, which ended with charge-sheet against 30 Indian army personnel.
After perusing the letters issued by CBI on December 11, 2017 and March 4, 2020, Justice Phukan observed that the charges in both the letters appear to be same. “And as such, further explanation upon the same charges is uncalled for. The impugned letter, dated March 4, 2020, appears to have been issued without application of mind and the same is not in conformity with administrative fair play”, he ruled.
In view of this, he stated, the Court finds sufficient force in the submission advanced by Tamgadge’s Counsel.
“Accordingly, as agreed, the impugned letter, dated March 4, 2020, issued by the Superintendent of Police, CBI, to the Chief Secretary, Government of Nagaland, referring to letter No.26011/55/2018-IPS-II, dated February 20, 2020, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, stands set aside and quashed. However, liberty remains with the respondent authority, to proceed with the explanation so furnished by the petitioner, vide his letter dated December 15, 2017, if so warranted and advised”, the order read.
(Page News Service)