Senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Abhay Kant Pathak, in jail since November last year for amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, was forced to retire on Monday after the Centre approved the state government’s recommendations for the same.
As part of its policy of zero tolerance towards corruption, the Odisha government last year recommended retirement of the 1987 batch IFS officer, terming him “very corrupt and high-flying”. The state had accused Pathak of depositing his “ill-gotten” wealth in his son Akash Pathak’s bank accounts and said that he was also involved in a job racket run by his son, who posed as managing director of Tata Motors to rob unemployed youth of huge amounts of cash on the false pretext of giving them jobs in the company.
In the last 1 year, more than 104 state officials have been given compulsory retirement over corruption issues.
Pathak, who served as the additional principal chief conservator of forests would have become the next principal chief conservator of forests of Odisha in June this year had he not been named in a corruption case in November last year. The state vigilance department accused Pathak of amassing disproportionate assets worth ₹9.35 crore, 435 % of his total income and claimed it to be the biggest disproportionate assets case in Odisha’s history.
Pathak, working as Odisha’s additional principal chief conservator of forests (Plan, Programme and Afforestation), was arrested after vigilance conducted raids at 13 places including his official residence in Bhubaneswar, his office, his apartment, the apartment of his nephew, driver’s house, his house at his native village in Khagaria, Bihar, luxury apartments and farmhouse in Pune and residence of his son’s manager at Samata Colony, Pune. His son Abhay Pathak, who owned Mercedes, BMW and Tata Harrier brand vehicles as well as high-end bikes such as Yamaha FZS, was arrested too.
The vigilance sleuths had alleged that Pathak and his family made at least 20 trips to different cities through chartered planes at an expenditure of over ₹3 crores during Covid lockdown last year. The vigilance sleuths found hotel bills totalling over ₹90 lakhs for expenses made at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai and advance booking worth ₹20 lakhs at Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur in Rajasthan for the impending marriage of Pathak’s son with the daughter of former BJD minister Pradip Panigrahy.
Panigrahy was also accused of conspiring with Pathak’s son Akash to cheat job seekers by promising jobs at Tata Motors without any authority to do so. He is also behind bars for more than 5 months.
In January this year, a vigilance court in Odisha granted bail to Pathak and his son in the disproportionate assets case. However, he and his son remain behind bars in another case of non-payment of money to a travel agency in Bhubaneswar. The father-son duo had booked chartered flights, five-star hotels and air tickets through the agency which cost around ₹2.78 crore. They paid the agency ₹2.13 crore while ₹65.16 lakh is yet to be cleared.