Sudhir Kumar arrest in Bihar: Backing officer is not backing corruption, says IAS body chief

IAS officers in Bihar are up in arms against the state cops as over the arrests of two of their colleagues in less than a year which they see it as a collision between the bureaucracy and the police. Last week, Bihar Staff Selection Commission chief and IAS officer Sudhir Kumar and five others were arrested in connection with a paper leak scam in clerical grade recruitment examination sending ripples of dismay in the state's IAS circle.

The Bihar IAS Officer’s Association soon came out in support of Kumar and called for a CBI inquiry to ensure fair probe on the matter. In July last year, the Bihar association held a general body meeting of IASOA and decided to submit a memorandum announcing that it would bear the legal and logistical expenses required to investigate the 'imposter arrest' of Jitendra Gupta, Mohania SDO in Kaimur district.

 Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association, honorary secretary, Sanjay Bhoosreddy. Pallavi Rebbapragada/Firstpost

Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association, honorary secretary, Sanjay Bhoosreddy. Pallavi Rebbapragada/Firstpost

Being an IAS or IPS officer always has its charm but there are occupational hazards of its own kind. Sources said since the workings of IAS and IPS officers are so public and visible, their intent and capability are questioned a lot more, unlike the army which is much more of a closed group making it harder to highlight their flaws. People tend to be judgmental in the sense that since Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are closer to the National Capital than the south Indian states of Telangana and Andhra, where real corruption happens, these states are usually perceived as the hotbeds of money-making for bureaucrats.

In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Sanjay Bhoosreddy, honorary secretary, Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association, explains what ails India's leading bureaucratic community, what makes them back comrades in legal trouble, and why apart from the glamour that the IAS tag gives how challenges on the ground are real:

Why has the IAS fraternity taken such a strong stand to protect those who have possibly compromised with the law? Won’t that damage the legacy created by revolutionary officers?

Those who are corrupt must be punished. There are no two ways about that. By backing the officer, we are not backing corruption or crime, we are simply saying there is a legal method in which proceedings must be carried out. Last year, the Bihar Police had acted in a mala fide manner against Jitendra Gupta a young IAS officer, while serving as sub-divisional magistrate Mohania. Gupta was falsely implicated in a vigilance case. At that point of time also the police had violated the statutory provisions of criminal law, which was brought to the notice of the authorities. The Patna High Court had in a scathing arrangement of the Special Vigilance Unit, quashed the FIR against Gupta in light of the uncontroverted facts, terming the FIR and the consequential investigation as not bona fide and abuse of the process of law. Despite this, the Vigilance Bureau, perhaps in obfuscation of the truth, prevailed over the government to approach the Supreme Court with some new shenanigan, only to find it being reprimanded by the highest Court of this country. The Supreme Court in deprecation of the government’s ingeniousness did not deem the appeal fit enough to be a case even for hearing and dismissed it on merit at the admission stage itself.

Are the police and the administrative forces not part of the same system? By backing this issue raised by the Bihar Association, aren’t you furthering the divide between the two?

Sudhir Kumar was arrested from his parents’ home in Hazaribagh in the middle of the night but the arrest was declared in Patna the morning after. This is a case of inter-service one-upmanship that the police tries to play. Why was there a need to manhandle him? Could he have run away? Kumar fully cooperated with the investigating agencies, he was neither absconding nor was found tampering with evidence, if any. Therefore, there was no need to arrest him without following the procedure and precautions of arrest as provided in Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code. He was also not afforded the opportunity of legal assistance.

Does dependence of political forces on bureaucracy make it believe that it is above the system?

That is a systemic problem and the IAS fraternity cannot be attacked in isolation.

Is a trade union mentality seeping into the structure and intent of associations?

IAS officers are vulnerable. They aren’t allowed to speak to the media or protest against the system at any forum. Going to court is an expensive option. In such a situation, only an association can put forward the case of an officer in need of justice and protection. Mostly associations are passive and rarely take up cases vigorously. Trade unions do not follow rules, they may demand what isn’t legally theirs. Associations work under the guidelines laid down by the government.

If IAS officers swear by the Constitution when they take the ‘integrity pledge’, then why are they seen backing a possible corruption suspect instead of focussing on tighter discipline and vigilance? Doesn’t this go against the integrity pledge that each officer is made to take?

As far as the investigation is concerned, the anti-corruption cell is autonomous because they have to follow the provisions of the criminal law. After the RTIs have been introduced, the system has become transparent. We cannot victimise and terrorise senior officers on the basis of conjecture. There are 4,700 IAS officers in the country and there may be big and small cases going on against approximately 200-250 of them, some are being chargesheeted. Are we raising our voice against the arrest or suspension of each one? Even in Gupta’s case, we offered only ‘moral support’ only after the court had whetted the point.

IAS officers are as much a part of the system as the Army is. What role do they play in nation building?

Every stretch of land of this country is covered by Indian administrative forces, there are people posted in conflict areas at all times. I am working on a list of IAS officers who have been killed by the lack of law and order, especially in Naxal and mining areas. He says nearly a dozen have lost their lives since the 80s. Only Rs 2.5 lakh is offered as compensation whenever a death occurs. How many people know the story of Dashrath Prasad (1994 IAS officer) who was killed by insurgents in Manipur during the national games. Today, his parents are struggling to make ends meet in a village in Banaras.

Can India ever be corruption free?

One good way to tackle corruption is to fix loopholes in the system. One of these is the fact that the mines officer at the district level and the mines supervisor at the sub-district level (both of whom belong to a Type C service) can be easily bribed and it is these people who often mislead the IAS officers posted in the district. For instance, they might take a cut in the royalty from mines and minerals that go into the government treasury by toying with the quantity and quality of the resources. If top political leaders want, it is quite easy to make India corruption-free.

Updated Date: Mar 02, 2017 20:11 PM

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