Sonia pitches for suspended IAS officer

New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure fair treatment for IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who has been suspended by the Uttar Pradesh government, and stressed need for safeguards to protect officials "working to uphold rule of law".

"We must ensure that the officer is not unfairly treated," Gandhi wrote in her letter to the prime minister, suggesting it be ensured the officer was not unduly harassed by the state government.

"It is reported that Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal, a young IAS officer of UP has been hastily suspended for unsubstantiated reasons. There is widespread concern because the officer, in the course of her public duties, was seen to be standing up to vested interests engaging in illegal activity," Gandhi further said in her letter dated Aug 2 which was accessed by IANS Saturday.

According to Gandhi, "this particular instance has highlighted the need to assess if there are adequate safeguards in place to protect executive functionaries working beyond the average call of duty to uphold the rule of law".

The Congress chief further said that "the implementation machinery must feel that the conditions are conducive to the delivery of public services without fear or favour".

Noting that "some good beginnings have been made towards administrative reforms," she said that "the issues that have come to be profiled in Ms Nagpal's case also need focus".

The suspension of Nagpal, a 28-year-old 2009-batch officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) by the UP government July 29, has led to a public outcry.

Nagpal, who was suspended for allegedly taking on the politically well-connected sand-mining dons, backed by powerful real estate barons, has stirred the country and made the young bespectacled woman - aptly named after the Goddess Durga of the Hindu pantheon who is worshipped as a symbol of feminine power - a crusader who dared to tread where others feared.

As outrage mounted against the arbitrary manner the state government suspended the woman IAS officer, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav gave the entire episode a religious twist by saying that the sub-divisional magistrate of Noida was removed for razing a mosque wall and which could have led to inter-community tensions in the area and not for any action against the "sand mafia".