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“Action against superiors too if VAOs don't discharge duties properly”

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Thursday issued a direction that if Village Administrative Officers (VAOs) are not strictly discharging their duties and if complaints are received, disciplinary action may be taken simultaneously against the superior officers also. The action should be for not supervising and enforcing the presence of VAOs in the respective villages.

The First Bench comprising Chief Justice M.Y.Eqbal and Justice T.S.Sivagnanam passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to the Chief Secretary and other authorities to take proper and effective steps by directing all VAOs to reside in the villages under their charge till they held the post, by strictly enforcing the Tamil Nadu Ministerial Service Rules.

The petitioner, K.S.Vivekanandam, alleged that most of the VAOs resided in the city or the district headquarters. As a result, villagers experienced difficulties in obtaining various certificates and in conveying their grievances.

The Bench cited the nature of work of VAOs and the Revenue Standing Order. It observed “We also took judicial notice of the fact that the Village Administrative Officers or the doctors posted in the Primary Health Centres are not discharging their duties by residing in the village, rather they like to reside in the city or district headquarters and discharge their duties from there or in the alternative going to the village (a) few days in a month.”

The court observed that from a perusal of the instructions by the Principal Secretary, Revenue Administration, on Wednesday, it was revealed that a duty had been cast on District Revenue Officers, Revenue Divisional Officers and Tahsildars to strictly enforce the instructions. As submitted by the Government Pleader, such instructions had been issued earlier also. “If that is so, then why instructions have not been followed by the Village Administrative Officers and if they are, in fact, violating the instructions then why not disciplinary action be taken against the Tahsildar or the Revenue Divisional Officers or District Revenue Officer for not discharging their duties and for not monitoring the day-to-day work of the Village Administrative Officers.” It directed the Principal Secretary/Commissioner of Revenue Administration to communicate the court order to all Collectors, RDOs and up to the level of VAOs.

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