Home Uttarakhand HC orders reinstatement of Bhartari as PCCF

HC orders reinstatement of Bhartari as PCCF

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Nainital, 3 Apr: In a major setback to the Uttarakhand Government, the High Court in Nainital has upheld the Central Administrative Tribunal’s decision that had directed the state government to reinstate senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Rajiv Bhartari as the PCCF and Head of the State Forest Department. The High Court’s judgement was delivered today.

The High Court has also directed the state government to reinstate Bhartari as PCCF (HoFF) by tomorrow morning.

It may be recalled that, in the wake of certain controversies that involved irregularities in the Corbett National Park, Bhartari, the then PCCF, was shifted out as Chairman of the Biodiversity Board on 25 November, 2021.  He was replaced by another senior IFS officer, Vinod Kumar Singhal, as the PCCF and Head of the Forest Department. This transfer was challenged by Bhartari, who had given 4 representations to the government seeking reinstatement. When the government did not oblige, Bhartari approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) challenging his transfer and making the plea that he had been shifted out for political reasons.  The CAT had upheld his plea and directed the state government to reinstate him as PCCF. The CAT had also held that the constitutional rights of Rajiv Bhartari had been violated by the government and that he had not been given any opportunity to present his arguments. This decision of the CAT by the single member bench comprising Judge Om Prakash had come on 24 February.

However, instead of complying with the directions of the CAT, the state government challenged the CAT’s decision in the Uttarakhand High Court. Not only this, the present PCCF Vinod Kumar Singhal, too, had challenged the decision in CAT, which had rejected his appeal. The government had taken the plea that posting of senior officers on any important position is a prerogative of the state government.

The High Court rejected all arguments of the State Government in this regard. Now that the High Court has not only directed reinstatement of Bhartari as the PCCF but also settled the time period for complying with the decision, it seems that the government has been left with no option but to reinstate Bhartari as PCCF by tomorrow morning.  It remains to be seen, what the government does about Vinod Kumar Singhal, who is the current PCCF. Sources claimed that Singhal may be transferred as Chairman of the Biodiversity Board in place of Bhartari.

Interestingly, both Bhartari and Singhal have only weeks to go before they retire. Sources said that both are due to retire by the end of April.

Forest Minister Subodh Uniyal is currently in Mumbai and could not be reached for his reaction. It also remains to be seen who else will replace both of them on 1 May when they will have retired.