Political appointment of DGP, SVC may not augur well for J&K

Political appointment of DGP, SVC may not augur well for J&K

21 February 2012
The Daily Excelsior


Jammu: In the middle of Legislature's passing the Jammu and Kashmir State Vigilance Commission Act, 2011, in the Budget session in 2011 and an amendment thereto in the summer session, Government of Jammu and Kashmir constituted Jammu & Kashmir State Vigilance Commission vide SRO-59 of General Administration Department (GAD) on February 15th, 2011. The idea was to create an institution of greater mandate, credibility and efficacy to deal with the menace of corruption in the executive. Across sections of population, it had been noticed with concern that the hackneyed State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) had either lost its sheen due to its perennial failure in taking investigations to a logical conclusion or the same had been misused by successive Governments as a hunting hound against the officials not toeing the regime's line. By way of another amendment in law, then defunct J&K Accountability Commission was given the mandate of dealing with corrupt public men (including Chief Minister, Ministers, MLAs, MLCs etc) and State Vigilance Commission was reserved for similar activity of public servants (Government employees). Even as SAC has been revived with the appointment of its Chairman and one member in 2011 after suspended animation of several years, it has not been able to create an impact it did when late Justice (retd) R P Sethi functioned as its first Chairman in 2004-05. The host of reasons includes alleged non-cooperation from Department of Law, lack of infrastructure and other human resources like creation of a full-fledged investigation wing to be headed by an Additional DGP or IGP. The Commission itself has been unable to borrow staff, including its Secretary, from J&K High Court, as provided in the law. On the other hand, Government has not provided Chairman and members to the SVC since it was constituted on 15-02-2011. In the atmosphere of uncertainty, even the existing SVO, that was now supposed to function under SVC, has vanished into oblivion. Ironically, this has happened in the Chief Minister's 'Year against Corruption'. Intriguingly, Supreme Court's observations, that came in the historic termination of the appointment of P J Thomas as the Union Government's Chief Vigilance Commissioner, were not accommodated by the state Law Department in the amendment in J&K State Vigilance Commission Act. The apex court had observed that eminent social activists could also be appointed as heads and members of CVC and similar anti-graft bodies in the States. When the draft of the amendment was unfolded, it became clear that it was only to make IPS officers of the rank of IGP eligible at par with the serving and retired IAS and senior KAS officers. Some believed that protracted delay in the appointments indicated that the amendment was only to ensure the post-retirement rehabilitation of a superannuating Police officer. In the last two weeks, it has been exposed through media that GAD has collected over a score of nominations from various administrative secretaries. Running clearly on the counter-purpose, the process is bound to fertilize lobbyism among the faithful and antagonists of different individual bureaucrats and politicians. This problem has been long back addressed at the Central level with the constitution of Cabinet Committee on Appointments. Such a formation would have assessed merit and qualification of incumbents, including of those who are not expected to chase their old subordinates with their CVs. Finally, it would have forwarded panels of three names each separately for filling up the posts of Chief Vigilance Commissioner, two Vigilance Commissioners and Secretary of the Commission. The statutory panel headed by Chief Minister and comprising one of his nominated Ministers (in this case most likely Dy Chief Minister Tara Chand of Congress party), Minister of Law (Ali Mohammad Sagar) and Leader of Opposition (Mehbooba Mufti) would have routed it to Raj Bhawan through Cabinet for Governor's approval. There are now clear indications that the 20-odd IAS, IPS and other retired-retiring officials include newly appointed Financial Commissioner Revenue, Ravi Kulbhushan Jerath, who has reached the grade of Chief Secretary and is retiring from service on April 30th. According to some reports, lately retired Commissioner-Secretary of GAD Mohammad Sayeed Khan does also figure in the list of 20 contenders. Names of two IPS officers, retired DGP (former Vigilance Commissioner) Dr Ashok Bhan and incumbent DGP, Kuldeep Khoda, who is reaching superannuation on May 31, 2012, are attracting maximum attention- partly because of the amendment introduced in the law last year. Significantly, Bhan had failed to become Leader of the Opposition Mehbooba Mufti's choice at the time of the selection of incumbents for J&K State Information Commission (SIC) in 2011. She again happens to be among the members of selection committee. Much remains to be seen whether Omar Abdullah-led coalition Government would fix the selection committee's meeting before or after March 2012. Failure to hold such a meeting would automatically lead to Mr Bhan's exit as he would be soon completing 62 years of age and becoming ineligible to head SVC. An incumbent by law shall have to serve for minimum of three years before completing 65 years of age. All the three, Messers Bhan, Jerath and Khan are known for integrity. Notwithstanding his disfavour from PDP, Dr Bhan is enjoying unique edge of having served as head of the State Vigilance Organisation. Speculations have been rife with regard to appointment of the new DGP in J&K. Some unconfirmed reports last year suggested that Chief Minister was in favour of getting a senior Muslim IPS officer from a neighbouring State as neither of Mr Khoda's immediate followers in J&K cadre of IPS, namely K Rajendra Kumar and P L Gupta, was having the mandatory service span of 30 years in IPS. Both belong to 1984 batch, thus 10 years junior to the outgoing DGP. Even if Mr Khoda, who has already served as DGP for nearly 5 years, gets extension of three months from the State Cabinet, followed by another extension of three months with the approval of Union Ministry of Home Affairs, neither of the two local contenders would have completed 30 years of service on 30-11-2012. This is said to have activated a lobby in bureaucracy to get someone from outside to head the J&K Police. However, the bureaucracy's proposal is being strongly contested by politicians as well as the State officers. Their contention is that it would take an outsider not less than six months to remember names and recognize faces in Police and civil administration. This, they argue, would not augur well for peace that was returning to the strife-torn State on a satisfactory note. Both, Rajendra as well as Gupta, have held senior and important positions and fought armed insurgency from the front. Ranjendra has the advantage of having served as IGP of executive Police in both Kashmir and Jammu zones. Their third colleague, Mr Illango, has been long back absorbed in RAW. Those favouring DGP essentially from J&K cadre insist that the last introduction from outside, Gurbachan Jagat, served as then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah's favourite but he could never run along other Ministers, legislators and politicians of the State. Later, the voids created were filled by his successors, A K Suri, Gopal Sharma and Kuldeep Khoda. After 18 years of pause, Khoda had the honour of becoming a state subject DGP in July 2007. These circles insist that the rule of 30 years of continuous service in IPS was most of the times comprised for outsiders. Examples are said to be galore from Surender Nath to FTR Colaso. When, in 1986, Governor Jagmohan got Francis Thomas Raphael Colaso to head J&K Police, he was just 49 years of age and had not completed even 25 years of service in IPS. A 1961-batch IPS officer of Karnataka, Colaso was posted as a DIG in his home State when he was imported and straightaway posted as DGP in J&K in 1986. Interestingly, when he went back in 1987, he was posted as BSF's IG in North East. It was only six months before his date of retirement from service in 1995 that he was elevated to the post of DGP in home State Karnataka. 'It's not a hard-and-fast rule', said a senior IAS officer. According to him, State Cabinet could easily relax the condition and appoint one among Rajendra and Gupta as Mr Khoda's successor. PDP alone could help Khoda in getting a post-retirement rehabilitation by troubling Dr Bhan's waters. PDP's main argument last time was that posting two Kashmiri Pandits on the two coveted positions, with none of the Kashmiri Muslims in top echelons of Police and civil administration, would not be politically correct in Valley. Much remains to be seen how it strikes bargaining with the coalition this time around.