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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Close on the heels of Modi-led government going for compulsory retirement of over 51 high ranking officials from the services for indulging in corruption and inefficiency, including sexual misconduct,  the Naveen Patnaik government has recently dismissed  21 officials from the service within a fortnight.

As per the notification issued by the State Government, Chief Minister has directed for compulsory retirement of 21 officials from the State government services as they have been convicted in vigilance cases against them. And the move is being considered as the State government's policy of zero tolerance towards corruption and 5T policy.

However, the big difference over the axing of 'corrupt' officials between the Centre and the State is: While the Centre is retiring high ranking officials facing charges of corruption, sexual misdemeanour or inefficiency, post conducting a periodic review (quarterly/half-yearly) under the Fundamental Rule (FR) 56 (j), 1972,  the Naveen Patnaik Government dismissed officials post conviction by Vigilance courts.

Significantly, Odisha was the first State in the country to promulgate the Special Courts Act for graft cases against government officials way back in 2006.

As per the Act, government has the right to confiscate property of government officials, even before their conviction in graft cases. The Supreme Court had held the law valid in the year 2015. And as per the service rules, post conviction the official faces dismissal from services.

Though in graft cases Vigilance  invoking the Special Courts Act keep seizing ill-gotten assets of government officials, the departmental action, however, against the convicted government servant took its own time in the State.

As per political observers, the recent dismissal action initiated against tainted officials by CM Naveen Patnaik is seemingly the impact of Modi government's move against tainted officials nationally.

It needs mentioning that Odisha government, like the Modi government, has the power to retire government servants compulsorily  under the FR 56(j). Even, many States had initiated action under the rule to dismiss high ranking officials, who were facing charges of graft or any other misdemeanour.

However, the Odisha government has refrained from invoking the rule in the State.

What is FR 56 (j): This is a rule framed in 1972 that governs compulsory retirement of high ranking officials and Class -III officials only. Under the rule, a government has the right to set a high powered committee to undertake in public interest a periodic review of officials ' performance. Any official facing serious misdemeanour charges or found grossly inefficient will be asked for compulsory retirement from services. Even, the SC has upheld the FR 56(j).

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