Transfer of officials to expedite Samruddhi corridor work illegal: Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday reversed the transfer orders of three bureaucrats, who were handed over new portfolios by the Maharashtra government. The transfers had been recommended by the revenue minister, Chandrakant Patil and confirmed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, for expediting work on the Samruddhi Corridor.

“The reason given is administrative reason and there is nothing mentioned as to how the requirement of expediting the work of Samruddhi Highway/ Mahamarg is connected with the transfer of the officials,” said the bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Sandeep Shinde, while setting aside the transfer orders.

The judges noted that the government ordered the mid-term transfers of these officials, especially Santosh Thite, who was transferred from his post at Bhiwandi to the post of deputy collector (Land Acquisition No. 4), Mumbai Suburban District.

According to the government, the revenue minister recommended Thite’s transfer by exercising powers under the Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfer and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005. The recommendation was confirmed by CM Fadnavis, for expediting the work of Samruddhi Corridor.

Trashing the contention, Justice Oka said, “The general rule is that the transfer of a government servant can be made only at the expiry of the tenure, however, there is an exception to this rule only in special cases and that also after recording reasons in writing.” “In the instant case, there is nothing on record that any of these officials have expertise or experience in the matter of construction of highways or in the matter of acquisition of lands relating to construction of highways.

Therefore, taking the so-called reasons recorded by the revenue minister as correct, the same are not sufficient to treat the case as a special case,” Justice Oka held. The bench further noted the fact that only a dedicated transferring authority (minister-in-charge of a department) is empowered to transfer bureaucrats but only after consulting the secretaries of the concerned departments.

No such consultation has been reflected from the record and even the proposal of the revenue minister does not refer to any such consultation with the secretaries. Hence, the minister had no power to pass orders without consulting the secretaries,” Justice Oka ruled.

The bench, accordingly, allowed the petition filed by Thite and cancelled the orders transferring him and other officials. The court, however, stayed its own order for a period of six weeks, so as to enable the government to challenge the same before the SC.

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