New Delhi: Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has held an order against former NCB Mumbai Zone Director Sameer Wankhede, against whom certain allegations were raised regarding the “conduct of the raid/investigation” in connection with the Aryan Khan drugs case.
Wankhede, who is an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) Officer of the 2008 batch, is currently serving as an Additional Commissioner under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.In this case, Wankhede (respondent number 1) had filed an application seeking quashing of a report dated June 16, 2022. This report was prepared by the Special Enquiry Team (SET), led by Deputy Director General Gyaneshwar Singh of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Delhi, who is the respondent number 4 in the case. Wankhede had previously worked as the Zonal Director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in Mumbai, Maharashtra. During this tenure, Wankhede received some information, on the basis of which a raid was conducted at Cordelia Cruise. Post this, certain allegations were raised against Wankhede regarding the “conduct of the raid/investigation”. To probe these allegations, an SET was formed within the NCB, which subsequently submitted its report, along with related documents, to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) — respondent number 3 in this case. The MHA, in turn, forwarded the preliminary report along with a draft charge sheet proposing major penalties to the disciplinary authority of Wankhede, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) — respondent number 5. It is Wankhede’s case that Gyaneshwar Singh, who was the Chairman of the SET, was actively involved in supervising the investigation of the above-mentioned crime. Wankhede contended that it is a violation of the principles of natural justice for Singh to head the SET investigating his own case. Upon a thorough examination of the case and the WhatsApp evidence, the tribunal, consisting of Chairman Justice Ranjit More and Member (A) Anand Mathur, also concluded Gyaneshwar Singh being actively involved in the investigation could not have been the part of SET. Consequently, the tribunal directed the relevant authorities (respondent numbers 1 and 5) to grant a personal hearing to Wankhede before any action is taken, ensuring that any decision is communicated with a reasoned and clear order. However, the respondents argued that the SET report is only preliminary and that the CBIC, as the disciplinary authority, should make an independent decision based on this report. They also pointed out that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered an FIR against Wankhede based on the same SET report, which is currently being challenged in the Bombay High Court. On Tuesday, Wankhede also filed an affidavit before the Bombay HC stating that the entire FIR including the sanction is based on the SET report and the said report has been held to be unsustainable having been conducted by a person (Gyaneshwar Singh) who could not be a judge in his own cause. The affidavit further says that the FIR in question is liable to be quashed and that this tribunal has held rightly that Singh being actively involved in the investigation, could not have been the part of SET, which was constituted to hold an enquiry for the alleged procedural lapses on the part of officials during the seizure and follow up action in connection with the aforesaid crime. “It is, therefore, clear that the SET was not only wrongfully constituted but the findings thereof were unsustainable. Further, the entire CBI FIR being based on the said findings is unsustainable especially when the said SET itself has been held to be wrongfully constituted,” Wankhede’s affidavit states. The tribunal had earlier issued notices to the respondents on December 19, 2022. On December 20, 2022, an ad-interim relief was granted, directing the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, to grant Wankhede a personal hearing before taking any action based on the SET