Atul Chandra under scrutiny for links to Reliance

Vol 9, PW 7 (14 Jul 05) People & Policy

Atul Chandra, former managing director of ONGC Videsh, is under investigation by the oil ministry for working with Reliance in violation of government rules.

Former oil secretary TS Vijayaraghavan has been asked to head a one-man inquiry into Chandras links with Reliance after he retired from ONGC. In a letter to Vijayaraghavan, who now lives in Chennai, the oil ministry writes: Certain allegations have been made against Shri Atul Chandra, former MD, ONGC Videsh, who has since superannuated (retired) on 30th April 2004, in respect of having accepted commercial employment within two years of his retirement without government permission under central civil service rules.

Vijayaraghavan is told that, with the approval of the competent authority, it has been decided to constitute a one-member committee headed by yourself to inquire into allegations levelled against him. The ministry asks Vijayaraghavan to convey his willingness to hold a inquiry into the allegations.

A ministry source tells us Vijayaraghavan was chosen to head the panel because he has experience of both the oil ministry and the Department of Public Enterprises. Vijayaraghavan was oil secretary in 1998-99 and then secretary at the DPE.

Vijayaraghavan has not been given any deadline to complete the probe but has been asked to find out if Chandra has violated government rules and to suggest ways to ensure that such incidents do not recur. Adds our source: We had to set up the probe because he (Chandra) is repeatedly denying allegations of full time employment.

If he had accepted the allegations there would not have been any need for an inquiry. What legal sanctity does the Vijayaraghavan panel have We cant say anything now, adds the ministry.

The matter is the subject of an enquiry. Vijayaraghavan has been offered secretarial support from the oil ministrys Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell when he comes to Delhi to carry out the inquiry.