Whistleblowing is not for the faint hearted. More so if one is a bureaucrat. There are several instances in India when whistleblower bureaucrats were transferred or demoted or punished in other ways while the Government denied the charge or quietly buried their disclosures. But there are some officers who stand out from the crowd and keep on striving to take a stand against corruption even if it has cost them their dignity and job. One such whistleblower bureaucrat is Dr Jitendra Gupta, IAS (BH:2013), whose fight against the transport mafia landed him in jail. However, soon it was established that the IAS officer was implicated in a fabricated case following which he was given a clean chit by both the Patna High Court and the Supreme Court. In a tell-all interaction with Bureaucracy Today, Dr Gupta bares his heart out about the ordeal which re-establishes the belief that a few honest and brave bureaucrats can make a big difference in the administration of the country.
Becoming an IAS officer was a dream come true for a young doctor, Jitendra Gupta, who left his lucrative profession of an orthopaedic surgeon and joined the Civil Services to bring “systemic reforms” in governance. However, little did Dr Gupta know that his effort to ensure clean and transparent governance would cost him his dignity and land him in jail.
In July 2016, Dr Gupta, who was posted as Sub Divisional Officer in Mohania, Bihar, was arrested in a fake bribery case “without any evidence” after he took up the cudgels against the transport mafia. Subsequently he was suspended and had to spend one month in jail.
In October 2016, the Patna High Court quashed the FIR after it was found to be fabricated and finally in February this year, the Supreme Court upheld the Patna High Court’s verdict and termed that the young bureaucrat was “framed” in the case.
Talking about his ordeal, Dr Gupta tells Bureaucracy Today, “I joined as SDO of Mohania in Kaimur District of Bihar in December 2015. Since National Highway No 2 passes through Mohania and the inter-State checkpost is located in the area, so transport offences are very common there. I started taking action against the transport mafia to put an effective check on the overloading of vehicles which causes revenue loss to the Government and loss of property and human life along with damage to public property and vehicular pollution. This disturbed the mafia-police nexus in Mohania. The mafia in connivance with the Vigilance team hatched a conspiracy against me and implicated me in a false case. I was blamed for seizing trucks. A few of them were not even in Bihar and the rest don't even exist till date. I was arrested for allegedly taking money which I neither demanded nor did I saw it till date.”
And the most unfortunate part of the entire incident, the IAS officer says, was that the “vigilance police officers were party to that conspiracy. They misled the court, the Government, the media and the public. They violated the law with impunity. They fabricated the FIR to write things against me pre and post-facto as they were hand in gloves with the mafia.”
The tribulation was not that of Dr Gupta alone. His wife Dr Aruna also had to bear the brunt of the incident.
‘VIGILANCE TEAM INSULTED US’
Speaking about the ignominy she had to face, Dr Aruna tells Bureaucracy Today, “The vigilance Department team insulted us in all possible manner and assaulted our house staff. They forcibly entered our house without search warrant at night, when I was inside with my children. This was against the guidelines of the Supreme Court. They messed up everything. When they got nothing incriminating from our house, they insisted my husband to move to Patna with them as the DG (Vigilance) wanted some clarifications. I was not even informed of his arrest and nor did the Vigilance team give me a copy of the FIR/memo of arrest which they should have provided under the provisions of law. So you can understand my situation. I came to know about his arrest next morning through the media and immediately rushed to Patna (leaving behind my six-year-old son who was suffering from high grade fever), with our domestic help. Even after reaching Patna, the Vigilance Investigation Bureau kept me in complete dark about the entire matter. They falsely briefed the media prior to sending my husband for judicial remand and that's how this falsehood of my husband being caught red-handed was spread by the Vigilance.”
Corruption has spread its tentacles to such an extent in the governance system that society generally perceives a bureaucrat to be corrupt, more so when that officer is arrested on bribery charges.
In this context, Dr Aruna says, “We are thankful to the people of Mohania who have always unflinching belief in the honesty of my husband and stood by us at the time of our distress.”
Dr Gupta also got support from both the Central and Bihar IAS Officers’ Associations which took up his case to the Government.
Dipak Singh, Treasurer of the Bihar IAS Officers’ Association, tells Bureaucracy Today, “There was no direct or indirect evidence against him (Dr Gupta) in the case except the Vigilance Department’s claim that the driver who was arrested with the money told it that he had taken the money because Dr Gupta had told him to take it. One cannot make a person accused based on a statement of another accused. And now the judgments of both the Patna High Court and the Supreme Court validate our stand that the whole thing was fabricated against the young officer.”
‘AN IAS OFFICER CANNOT ABSCOND’
He further says, “These kind of cases demotivate officers. An IAS officer cannot abscond. If there are corruption charges against any officer, the matter must be investigated properly and if there is strong evidence only then action should be taken. However, if authorities start taking action against senior officers on flimsy grounds then obviously these would demotivate them.”
Though Dr Gupta had to pay a heavy price for fighting corruption, the incident did not deter him. On the contrary, he has emerged stronger and is more motivated to reform the system.
“It is not the first time that an upright officer has paid heavily for exposing corruption. Some have even given their lives. Such incidents demotivate a few officers while others get inspiration. I am not that kind who will stop here. Irrespective of the threats and turbulence, I will keep fighting against corruption and for reforming the system. I will keep the spirit alive and work with the same zeal. I will dedicate the rest of my life for the cause of the poor and helping anyone in distress,” IAS officer Gupta says.
He further elucidates, “I come from a humble background and I am very sensitive to the plight of the poor and helpless. As an orthopaedic surgeon, I could have earned handsomely and settled in any big city but I chose to serve the poor through the Administrative Service. As a surgeon, I could have treated individual problems but as an IAS officer, I will get opportunities to bring systemic reforms.”
WORDS OF WISDOM FOR OTHER BUREAUCRATS
Motivating other civil servants who want to take up the cudgels against corruption, Dr Gupta says, “My sincere advice to my colleagues in the IAS service is that they should not lose hope. Our service is meant to do right things and stop those who do wrong things. If we can't do this, we have no right to be in the service. There are professional hazards of being harassed and falsely implicated but these hazards are in everything that we do in life. Does that mean that we should quit fighting against corruption? Absolutely no. In fact, we should encourage more youngsters to join the Civil Services to bring reforms and remove all filth from the system.”
For the full story grab the May 1-31, 2017 edition of Bureaucracy Today which will be out on the stands soon.