To keep the parrot caged

Inside CBI, it’s cadre versus deputation. And to keep the scale tipped in favour the latter helps the government make the probe agency subservient.

brajesh

Brajesh Kumar | June 21, 2013



Should the central bureau of investigation (CBI) have more officers from outside (deputation from IPS and other all India services) or should it strengthen its own cadre for its efficient functioning?

The debate has been as old as the establishment of the premier investigative agency.

Recently, however, the debate has been pitchforked into limelight with a section of the cadre officers moving the supreme court last month with a plea to issue directive to the Group of Ministers (GoM), which is examining the issue of the agency’s autonomy, to consider parliamentary panel reports on the CBI before making its recommendation.

These officers, in a petition filed before the supreme court last month, have accused the government of deliberately flooding the probe agency with officers on deputation, ignoring those from its own cadre, with a motive to keep it subservient like, as the SC famously said, a “caged parrot”.

According to Kamini Jaiswal, the advocate for the CBI officers, “The government does not want the CBI to be autonomous. Hence, the disregard for the parliamentary standing committee reports.”

Twelve reports have been submitted by the department-related standing committee on the working of the CBI. The one common recommendation running through all the reports is that the government should strengthen its own cadre and reduce its dependence on the officers on deputation.

“The Committee reiterates its view that the departmental officers should form the core of the organisation and that adequate steps should be taken to ensure that these officers also reach higher ranks in the organisation. The Committee is concerned that excessive dependence on deputation needs to be discouraged,” said one of the many recommendations by the committee.

When the CBI was formally constituted in 1963, it did not have a dedicated cadre. Therefore, for immediate and near-term purposes, officers were then recruited on deputation from the Indian Police Service at the supervisory level, and from the State Police at the subordinate levels.

Simultaneously, the recruitment rules also allowed for direct recruitment of officers through the state service commissions and union public service commission (UPSC) at the entry levels of constable, sub-inspector and deputy superintendent of police (DSP) respectively; so that over a period of time, these officers would form the nucleus cadre of the organisation and help run it in all its essentials.

The recruitment rules fixed the ratio of deputation officers to cadre officers with the ratio rising (deputation:cadre) as the rank went up. For example, while 60 percent of the positions at the SP level are filled with officers on deputation (IPS, IAAS, IRS), and 40 from cadre officers and ratio changes to 75:25 at the DIG rank and 80:20 at the joint director rank.

Although the ratio suggests a good number of cadre officers should be placed in important positions, the petition alleges they have been deliberately kept away from having any say in its functioning as none of them in the last 50 years has ever been appointed to any post in the organisation dealing with the administrative and policymaking decisions – like the deputy director (administration), deputy inspector general of police (policy), joint director (administration) and joint director (policy).

“These posts have always been deliberately and purposefully manned by the deputationist IPS officers,” says a DSP with the CBI.

And that’s where the grouse of the cadre officers gains traction.

“We understand the necessity of IPS officers manning the top positions but why deprive cadre officers from other positions that deal with administrative and policymaking decisions,” says another officer.

The argument in favour of bringing in the officers on deputation is that they bring in varied experience with them because of their exposure to different kinds of situations in their parent departments.

And it’s a valid argument, for the CBI’s mandate over the years has expanded to investigate, apart from corruption and bribery cases, cases of violation of central fiscal laws, major frauds relating to the government of India departments, public joint stock companies, passport frauds, crimes on the high seas, crimes on the airlines and serious crimes committed by organised gangs and professional criminals. It is only natural, therefore, that the organisation has officers from other all-India services.

However, the arbitrary way the government has gone about filling a large chunk of vacancies with the organisation at the cost of cadre officers has attracted the ire of the cadre officers.

According to the petition of the cadre officers, the government’s pronounced bias for the ‘deputationists’ became evident when it started filling vacancies in the organisation with a number of “unqualified officers from paramilitary forces and non-police organisations who are bereft of any previous field-level experience in criminal investigations and who are without the requisite original statutory qualification for conducting investigations”.   

In its attempt to fill the CBI with ‘deputationists’, the government has also ignored the CBI recruitment rule 2000 which specifically provides for 10 percent of posts of deputy superintendents of police by way of direct recruitment through the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC.

And even though the vacancy for DSP rank officers in the CBI stood at 137 as on December 31, 2012, the government refused to take officers through direct recruitment. Documents obtained by cadre officers show the government for the past 15 years did not intimate the UPSC of a single vacancy for the direct recruitment.

“It is nobody case that the deputationists should be done away with. They are valuable to the CBI. Our only problem is they should not be encouraged at the cost of cadre officers,” said a cadre officer.  

And it is not very difficult for the government to resolve the logjam considering the 24th report of the parliamentary standing committee on the functioning of the CBI has already prescribed the way forward.

It said the deputation quota should be prescribed with reference to the nature of the job and that the number of deputationists at the junior levels particularly should be relatively small, so that the interests of the cadre officers would not be detrimentally affected. It recommended that in the event of vacancies not being filled up in the deputationists cadre, those vacancies should be filled up by seeking recruitment from the permanent cadre of the CBI.

If only the government was listening.

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