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High court orders Restoration of Head Assistant Atasi Tarafdar, arrested for bribery

One of the biggest expose of recent times in Barak Valley, Atashi Dutta Tarafdar case takes a new turn. Gauhati High Court in its judgment ordered the administration to withdraw all suspension against Atashi Dutta Tarafdar and respectfully restore her to service. March last year, Atashi Dutta Tarafdar was allegedly caught red-handed while accepting a bribe from the proprietor of a printing press in Tarapur Silchar.

Atashi Dutta Tarafder was employed as the senior assistant (Borobabu) in Election Office as deputy commissioner’s office in Silchar. The proprietor of a printing press in Tarapur alleged that Atashi was refusing to clear his bills worth Rs 2,50,000 unless he paid her a bribe of Rs 95,000 which she agreed to receive in three installments. He informed the same to the vigilance team in Guwahati and the CBI. The CBI forwarded the proprietor’s complain to the anti-corruption department and the officials there found the allegations credible after thorough vetting.

A team of nine members, two DSPs- Jitendra Chakraborty and Moushumi Das, two Inspectors- Lakhi Narayan Barman and Anukul Malakar, two computer experts and three constables conducted the operation on March 28, 2019, and caught Atashi Dutta Tarafdar red-handed while accepting the first installment of Rs 30,000. She was then temporarily suspended by then deputy commissioner of Cachar, Laya Madduri. The operation was captured live by many television channels and web publications. All big dailies reported the incident in great detail, however, as an astonishment, the government or the Police failed to prepare a charge-sheet.

Gauhati High Court on May 16, 2019, granted her bail due to lack of evidence against her. Since then, she has been appealing to the court to ask the administration to withdraw the suspension against her. On February 7, 2020, after she appealed for the third time, Gauhati High Court asked the administration to restore her to service.

High Court Judge, Manoranjan Pathak while announcing his judgment said that the administration did not conduct any proceedings against her and thus the court is dismissing the suspension order that expels her from service. The judge also notified that the administration should have started its proceeding within 90 days of her suspension and since it did not do the same, the court asked the administration to restore her  service.

This poses questions on Government’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. It also creates a lot of fear for the proprietors who decide to take the fair route and deny bribe. Now, Atashi Dutta Tarafdar will respectfully get her chair back, but will the printing press get the tender? Will another proprietor dare to deny bribe or help the administration in unearthing the corrupt? Who should people who advocate fair play go to?

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