Health minister Dr Harshvardhan had said soon after AIIMS CVO Sanjiv Chaturvedi was sacked that Chaturvedi had to go because he was "not at all eligible" for the post, that his appointment was "rejected" twice. But documents with dna point to other compelling reasons for the ouster of Chaturvedi from the AIIMS campus.
Chaturvedi had taken action against two AIIMS functionaries with powerful political connections. One of them was IAS officer Vineet Chaudhary of the HImachal Pradesh cadre, who was health secretary in Himachal Pradesh when BJP general secretary JP Nadda was health minister of that state. The other was Dr AC Ammini, who was treating the senior-most, cabinet-ranked woman minister, a diabetic, in the Modi government.
When contacted for this report, JP Nadda refused to say anything on the issue of Chaturvedi's removal, and an SMS sent to Dr Harshvardhan's mobile number, asking him whether Chaturvedi was sacked because of pressure from Nadda and the powerful woman union minister, did not elicit any reply. Repeated calls to his mobile number also went unanswered.
For the record, Chaturvedi had initiated proceedings against both Vineet Chaudhary and Dr AC Ammini on the CBI's recommendation. Chaudhary, then deputy director (admin), AIIMS, and now additional chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh, was charged on various counts of financial irregularities, including for appointing a "corrupt" engineer to supervise a Rs 3,750 crore expansion project. He was also charged with getting his pet dog treated at the AIIMS cancer centre and for misuse of official vehicle provided to him. Based on these charges, a CBI case was registered against him on January 9, 2014.
Documents in dna's possession show that Chaturvedi was relentless in his pursuit of Chaudhary, and that he was in the crosshairs of Nadda soon after initiating proceedings against Chaudhary. "It is very interesting to note that communications for my removal were started by JP Nadda immediately after the initiation of vigilance inquiry by the undersigned against Vineet Chaudhary and peaked immediately after the registration of CBI case against Vineet Chaudhary on 09.01.2014," says a letter dated August 16, 2014 sent by Chaturvedi to the Union health secretary.
But if Chaturvedi was single-minded in his pursuit of Chaudhary, Nadda was equally persistent in his attempts to see Chaturvedi packed off from AIIMS. On May 8, 2013, Nadda wrote to then MoS, personnel grievances & pensions, V Narayansamy, pointing out the "total violation of established procedures..." in the appointment of Chaturvedi as CVO, AIIMS. Narayansamy wrote back that he has forwarded Nadda's grievances to the ministry of health for clarification and action.
On September 2, 2013, Nadda wrote to then minister of health Ghulam Nabi Azad, pointing out the "procedural irregularities in the appointment of CVO of AIIMS." Nadda wrote to Azad again on January 28, 2014, requesting him to "set the record straight" on the appointment Chaturvedi as AIIMS CVO.
To dna's query on Wednesday, whether he felt vindicated after Chaturvedi's removal from the AIIMS CVO post, Nadda said: "Mein is vishye mein kuch bolna nahi chahata (I do not want to say anything on this issue)."
Dr AC Ammini, the other person with a grudge against Chaturvedi, headed, until recently, the department of endocrinology at AIIMS. The CBI had recommended major penalty proceedings against her for accepting "boarding, lodging and transportation facilities" from Vinayaka Mission Medical College and Hospital, Karaikal, Tamil Nadu, where she was sent on an inspection assignment by the Medical Council of India. Chaturvedi started major penalty proceedings against her on the CBI's recommendation and she stood to lose her job as well as post-retirement benefits.
The first thing Dr Harshvardhan did after taking charge was give a clean chit to Dr Ammini. On June 30, 2014, a week after the Modi government was sworn in, he wrote to the AIIMS director: "I have come to the conclusion that although the college under inspection paid her taxi bill initially, Dr AC Ammini reimbursed it on 4.9.2010 by demand draft... Keeping in view the totality of the facts and circumstances we should convey (to) Dr Ammini to be more careful in future and close this matter."
Dr Ammini retired the very day she got vigilance clearance on Harshvardhan's intervention. The second thing that Dr Harshvardhan did was sack Chaturvedi, which he did on August 14, 2014 despite the fact that on May 23, 2014, three days before the Modi government was sworn in, the health secretary had "set the record straight" by stating that Chaturvedi''s appointment was as per statutory requirements, and that his integrity was "absolute", and performance "exemplary", and that the matter raised by JP Nadda stood closed.