Madras HC upholds order quashing TNPCB member secretary posting
CHENNAI: Finding no infirmity in the Madras high court verdict that quashed the appointment of K Karthikeyan as Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) member-secretary, a bench of the high court on Friday upheld the order passed on January 23, 2015. In September 2014, journalist V Anbazhagan filed a quo warranto writ petition saying the officer was facing departmental and vigilance proceedings and his appointment was hence “without authority of law.” In response, the state government said Karthikeyan possessed the requisite qualifications mandated under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. He was, in fact, the “most eligible and qualified person for the post,” it said. Further, the TNPCB chairman had framed five charges against Karthikeyan in January 2013 for issuing consent to some industries, which caused a loss of around 4.95 lakh to the board. The loss, however, was not proved. A DVAC inspector had acquitted him of two charges, and recommended department proceedings for the rest. DVAC, however, did not recommend any criminal action. Counsel for Anbazhagan said the government did not have the details of the DVAC draft final report while appointing Karthikeyan to the post. Also, the pendency of detailed inquiry was not taken into account. Stating that the government possibly selected the candidate of its choice, overlooking the pending inquiry and later cleaning the records to justify its choice, Justice V Ramasubramanian set aside Karthikeyan’s appointment. On Friday, advocate general K L Somaiyaji said that according to the DVAC report, no pecuniary advantage had accrued to Karthikeyan. Also, it did not cast aspersions on Karthikeyan’s integrity and devotion to work. The charges against him pertained to procedural lapse and not lack of integrity. Also, the government was competent to drop the charges against him. Countering this, counsel for Anbazhagan said Karthikeyan did not maintain “the highest degree of integrity” to be appointed to the post. A bench of Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M Venugopal said there were serious allegations against Karthikeyan which had been proved before his appointment. “If the antecedent of a candidate is tainted with doubtful integrity, as in the present case, the same is relevant for eligibility criteria,” said the bench.There was no evidence before the court to refute the findings of the single judge, it said.