An Ex-Commandant of CISF sought information regarding action taken against lapses of officials of NALCO leading to a naxalite attack - CIC applauded the appellant & directed to send a copy of the order to the Secretary, Ministry of Mines & CMD, NALCO
The complainant sought information regarding action taken against inaction/lapses of officials of NALCO, Odisha leading to a naxalite attack on 12.04.2009, in which 10 jawans of CISF sacrificed their lives.
Relevant facts emerging during hearing: 16.02.2015
Both parties are present. The complainant filed an RTI application on 15.09.2012, seeking the above information. CPIO, M/o Mines transferred the RTI application to NALCO, Bhubaneswar which was received on 03.10.2012. CPIO, NALCO in his reply stated that information is not held with the respondent public authority. The FAA in his order upheld the CPIO’s decision. The complainant, while apprising the Commission about the facts of the case, stated that in an attack by Naxalites on 12.04.2009, 10 personnel of CISF lost their lives. He attributed this to a large extent to sheer disregard shown towards the upgradation of security infrastructure by the NALCO Management in spite of repeated requests made to them. He stated that he, as Ex- Commandant of CISF in NALCO Damanjodi unit, has been running from pillar-to-post to ensure that the 6 named delinquent officials are proceeded against. He stated that no information was given to him whether the officers have been proceeded against or not and that is why he sought such information through the RTI route.
The respondent from the Ministry stated that consequent to the attack, the matter was transferred to NALCO and no information is held by the Ministry in this regard. On query by the Commission as to whether the case was followed up by the Ministry from NALCO, the respondent from the Ministry stated that a letter dt. 31.08.2009 was written by the Ministry to Chairman, NALCO. On query by the Commission as to who was supposed to take action, he stated that efforts have been made to proceed with the case but NALCO is the appropriate disciplinary authority to take action against its officials. On query by the Commission as to whether there is any further correspondence of the Ministry after the letter dt. 31.08.2009 from NALCO, the respondent replied in the negative. CPIO, NALCO stated that as per their record, a letter dt. 08.09.2009 was written by CMD, NALCO to Director (Pers. & Admn.) for initiating necessary action in this regard. He stated that there was no further correspondence other than that letter. On query by the Commission whether a copy of letter dt. 08.09.2009 was forwarded to the Ministry, CPIO, NALCO replied in the negative. The appellant stated that the letter should have been forwarded to the Ministry, keeping in mind the gravity and sensitivity of the matter. CPIO, NALCO stated that the said letter was only for internal communication. He stated that there is no further record in the concerned file other than letters dt. 31.08.2009 & 08.09.2009, thus, he cannot say whether any action was taken in this case.
The complainant expressed regret and stated he is raising an issue of national importance and that no one is coming forward, either from the Ministry or NALCO, to seek justice for the martyrs. He urged that an enquiry must be conducted as to why information was not provided to him. He stated that he has received information from the Ministry but not from NALCO.
Interim Decision: 26.02.2015
After hearing the parties and on perusal of record, the Commission is of the view that the instant case, being one of national interest, has been handled by both the Ministry of Mines and NALCO in the most unsympathetic and unprofessional manner. As the appellant is seeking information from NALCO, this complaint is being treated as an appeal on his request. The appellant, who is an Ex-Commandant of CISF in NALCO Damanjodi unit, is seeking information on action taken on his several requests made regarding an attack by Naxalites on 12.04.2009, where he lost 10 jawans due to faulty security infrastructure provided by the NALCO Management. The appellant has been running from pillar-to-post in ensuring that the delinquent officials of NALCO are appropriately punished. The Ministry has passed the buck to NALCO stating that NALCO is the appropriate disciplinary authority to take action against its officials but has not kept itself abreast with the progress in the case and instead washed its hands off the responsibility. NALCO has simply stated that the information is not held by them. The Ministry, after holding an enquiry, wrote a letter dated 31.08.2009 to the Chairman, NALCO to take action in the matter and CMD, NALCO in turn wrote another letter dated 08.09.2009, as an internal communication to the Director (Pers. & Admn.). The respondents from NALCO have not been able to explain whether any action was taken by Director (Pers. & Admn.) in this regard. The Commission is constrained to conclude that both the respondent authorities have been most insensitive and acting with utmost irresponsibility have dealt with the matter in a purely bureaucratic manner.
In view of the above, the Commission directs CPIO, Ministry of Mines, to furnish a written submission before the Commission as to whether there has been any correspondence with NALCO after letter dt. 31.08.2009, regarding the information sought by the appellant, along with a copy of the same, within two weeks of receipt of this order. A copy of the same be marked to the appellant. CPIO, NALCO is directed to furnish written submission before the Commission as to what action has been taken since the receipt of the Ministry’s letter dated 31.08.2009 and the action taken by the Dir.(Pers.& Admn.) on the CMD’s letter dated 08.09.2009, along with a copy of the same and any other correspondence in this regard, within two weeks of receipt of this order. A copy of the same be marked to the appellant.
After listening to the arguments of the appellant and the respondents during the hearing and on perusal of all available records, the Commission observes that the information sought by the appellant vide his RTI application dated 15.09.2012 was not provided to him at all. The appellant had asked for the details of disciplinary action taken against the officers of NALCO in the aftermath of attack of Naxalites/ Maoists on the NALCO unit located in Damanjodi, Orissa on 12.04.2009, in which 10 CISF jawans lost their lives in a ensuing encounter. To appreciate the circumstances of the case which has wider public interest, it is important to spell out in sequence the action taken by the authorities in the aftermath of the incident. The attack on NALCO unit in Damanjodi on 12.04.2009 was with the intention of looting explosives and other heavy equipments. During the attack, four Naxalites were killed and many were injured while 10 men of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) sacrificed their lives in the ensuing encounter. The Maoists/ Naxalites were pushed out eventually in the morning of 13.04.2009. According to the Ministry of Mines, extensive damage was caused to the communication network/fire station and related establishment of the company. After the incident, Ministry of Mines instituted an inquiry to pinpoint the lapses on the part of concerned NALCO officers since it was found that a number of requests had been made by the Commandant CISF, NALCO for upgrading the security measures and were not paid heed to by the management, thus, rendering the entire unit vulnerable to attacks and penetration by Naxalites/Maoists. The fact finding inquiry held by a Senior Officer which entailed extensive discussions with the State Government, Security forces, NALCO management as well as employees union and after examination of various records - came to the conclusion that the senior management of the company did not respond to the requests for security upgradation and did not take appropriate action for which they should be held responsible. It also transpired from the records that a number of meetings were held by the Ministry of Mines after the incident for reviewing security situation in the mines. Consultations with the State Government officials and officers from CISF and Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that there were indeed “gaping holes in the security system of NALCO which need to be urgently augmented by fortification of the magazine area by erecting concrete morchas, sand bags and watch towers with outward focused high mast lights, laying of concertina barbed wires around the magazine area, power fencing, strengthening of communication network, better amenities for CISF personnel etc. It was also decided to shift the magazine to a safer area as a long term measure. During the course of discussions with CISF/MHA authorities on 13.4.09 and later, it was pointed out that they had addressed altogether 21 letters from 2004 onwards on issues such as
(i) fortifying security at the existing magazine sites,
(ii) shifting of Magazine to a safer place,
(iii) security for the conveyor belts,
(iv) compliance to the IB Reports on security related matters.
Apparently these appeared to be lapse on the part of NALCO management in discharging their responsibilities for ensuring security in the mines as they had not initiated timely action on these requests to strengthen the security.”
(Extract from a communication addressed to Chairman-cum-Managing Director, NALCO dated 17.06.2009 from Under Secretary, Ministry of Mines)
Subsequently, show cause letters were issued by the Ministry of Mines to the 8 officers of NALCO for their alleged lapses which led to the Naxalite/Maoist attack on the NALCO unit. Replies from 7 officers were received while the 8th officer had already superannuated. After receiving their replies, it was decided that appropriate disciplinary proceedings be initiated against the officers at the ED/GM level of NALCO and accordingly the Ministry vide letter dated 31.08.2009 wrote to the Chairman, NALCO for conducting these disciplinary proceedings, against the officers against whom issued show cause notices had been issued. During the first hearing on 16.02.2015, the appellant stated that he has been denied information on disciplinary action taken against officers who were issued show cause letters by the Ministry for their alleged lapses leading to the attack on the NALCO unit. CPIO, NALCO informed the appellant that the information was not held by them. The respondent from Ministry stated that the matter related to NALCO and therefore, no information was held by the Ministry too. On query by the Commission if the Ministry pursued the matter further to the communication dated 31.08.2009, the respondent from Ministry replied in the negative. This, despite the fact that the Under Secretary had issued show cause letter to the Chairman-Cum- Managing Director (Incharge), NALCO himself on 17.06.2009. CPIO, NALCO further stated that in response to the Ministry’s communication dated 31.08.2009, CMD, NALCO marked the said letter to Director (Pers.&Admn.) on 08.09.2009 for initiating necessary action, subsequent to which there is no further record in the concerned file. The Commission then directed CPIO, Ministry of Mines to furnish written submission as to whether there was any correspondence with NALCO after their letter of 31.08.2009. CPIO, NALCO was also directed to furnish written submission before the Commission regarding action taken after receipt of Ministry’s letter dated 31.08.2009 and action taken by Director (Pers. & Admn.) on CMD’s internal communication dated 08.09.2009. The respondent from NALCO submitted that a committee shall be constituted to trace the relevant files for ferreting out the subject documents A communication dated 31.03.2015 was received from PIO/ED, NALCO stating that a Committee of two executives had been constituted to trace the relevant documents, if any, regarding action taken on the appellant’s complaint and that a month’s time is required to furnish written submission. The same was granted by the Commission.
PIO/ED-CS, NALCO submitted the Committee Report on tracing of Documents vide letter dated 30.04.2015. It is stated therein that the Committee so constituted submitted its findings on 21.04.2015 and indicated that no record is available on action taken by the Dir.(Pers.& Admn.) on the CMD’s letter dt. 08.09.2009 and they have opined that indeed, no action was initiated against the alleged officials, though found prima facie guilty. It is also stated therein that after the incident, the matter was taken up at various fora including Board of Directors of the Company and one of the Independent Directors of the Board visited Damanjodi along with CMD and Directors to take stock of the situation. These actions resulted in improvement of security measures by the Management not only in the mines but in all units to face any such situation in future, including installation of equipment etc. to enhance the safety and security of the plant and the people.
CPIO/US, Ministry of Mines in his written submission dated 25.03.2015 stated that after issuance of letter dated 31.08.2009 to Chairman, NALCO, correspondence vide letters dt. 11.11.2011 and 26.09.2012 have been made by the Ministry with NALCO and copies provided to the appellant. The said letters dated 11.11.2011 and 26.09.2012 have been perused by this Commission. Both the letters were transfer of appellant’s RTI applications, including the one being dealt with in the instant case.
The appellant in response to the Ministry’s written submission dated 25.03.2015 furnished his own submission vide letter dated 08.04.2015. It is stated therein that the Ministry has only issued directions to Chairman/MD, NALCO for taking appropriate action, but the same has not been complied with and that the NALCO has not taken any action in the matter. On perusal of the written submission of the appellant, CPIO, Ministry of Mines and CPIO, NALCO, it is clear is that no action has, ever been initiated against the named officials of NALCO for the security breach leading to the naxalite attack on 12.04.2009, in which 10 jawans of CISF lost their lives. The only action taken by the Ministry is the letter dated 31.08.2009 sent to the Chairman, NALCO. As per the Ministry, NALCO is the appropriate disciplinary authority to take action against its officials and as per NALCO, letter dated 08.09.2009 was written by CMD, NALCO to Director (Pers. & Admn.) for initiating necessary action, but no correspondence has been found subsequent to that. As per the Committee Report, the CMD’s letter dated 08.09.2009 was endorsed to Executive Director (H&A) on 09.09.2009 and since it was a closed envelope, marked ‘Confidential’, the same was handed over to the then ED (H&A), Shri B.N. Swain. After the receipt of the same, there is no entry anywhere regarding its further movement. The CMD’s letter dt. 08.09.2009 is an internal communication and its copy has not been forwarded to the Ministry.
Both the Ministry of Mines and NALCO have made it clear that no action has been taken till date against the delinquent officers due to whose alleged inaction/lapse, appropriate security measures were not taken and as a result during the naxalite attack on 12.04.2009, precious lives of the 10 jawans of CISF were lost. It is shocking to note that neither the Ministry nor NALCO pursued this case against the wrongdoers despite the supreme sacrifice of 10 bravehearts who laid down their lives to safeguard the lives and interests of NALCO. The Ministry of Mines after holding an inquiry into the matter and fixing the responsibility of 8 officials for the alleged lapses, wrote a letter on 31.08.2009 to the Chairman, NALCO for taking necessary disciplinary action in the matter. Thereafter, the Ministry forgot about the case and never pursued it despite the fact that show cause letter was issued to the CMD (incharge) himself to CMD, NALCO after receiving Ministry’s letter merely marked the letter with an internal communication on 08.09.2009 to Director (Personnel & Admn.) and never bothered to pursue the matter. Thereafter, there is no record of any further correspondence in the concerned file and all the officers concerned against whom lapses were attributed to have now retired. It is not even clear whether any action was initiated at all against them. CPIO, NALCO & Ministry of Mines have not provided any information regarding action taken against the above mentioned officials because there is no record available with them. The Commission would have appreciated if the respondents from both the Ministry and NALCO had admitted in the first hearing itself that there was no information to be furnished since no action was taken against the guilty officers.
It is most appalling to find acute insensitivity and apathy displayed on the part of both the Ministry of Mines and the erstwhile CMD, NALCO in a case which involved tragic loss of 10 lives of paramilitary personnel. It is shocking to see that the organisation for whom those personnel laid down their lives did not even care to pursue the matter against those responsible officers for the lapse which led to such an unfortunate incident. The Commission directs the Designated Officer of this bench to send a copy of this order to the Secretary, Ministry of Mines and CMD, NALCO to apprise them with the complete insensitivity and apathy shown in the above case by the concerned officers and with a hope that in future matters like this are pursued in the right interest towards the cause of justice. It is a fact that NALCO failed to honour its martyrs who laid down their lives for the company’s cause. It is hoped that in future appropriate directions are given by the Ministry and the NALCO management to look after the security men guarding their units and also take interest in upgradation of the security infrastructure which is a critical requirement in such units vulnerable to attacks in the so called naxal belt.
The Commission also applauds the tenacity with which the appellant has pursued this case in seeking information which would have somehow assuaged his feelings and compensated for the loss of the fallen colleagues under his command. The Commission also understands the pain and anguish felt by him on the loss of his comrades. Unfortunately, since no action was taken against the delinquent officials, there was no information to be given and for which the current CPIO can certainly not be held responsible. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Shri Shakti Dhar Dobhal v. National Aluminium Comp. Ltd. (NALCO) Bhubaneswar in F.No.CIC/DS/C/2013/900660-YA