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Monday, December 15, 2014

Eyeless in Patna: The Suspension of Kuldeep Narayan

The news of the suspension of Kuldeep Narayan would deeply upset all those who  value probity in public life. I do not know him personally but from the crowd sourced accounts of his performance as municipal commissioner  he is an IAS officer who meant business and he was prepared to take risks much beyond the call of his duty. The media reports suggest that he had tried to introduce some semblance of order in the chaotic urban landscape of Patna which embroiled him in an unequal battle with the builder lobby and their patrons in the government. The government did what it could do and transferred him from his assignment as municipal commissioner. But amnesty came his way, thanks to the Hon’ble Patna High Court which stayed his transfer. Needless to say he was a thorn in the government’s flesh.

To compound his misfortune  the mayor of Patna is also  not favourably disposed to him and their  ongoing fight is the staple of local newspapers.  The resultant  forces of friction and resistance required ten times the normal effort for him  to get anything done in the municipal corporation . It takes two to make a quarrel but the blame for the deadlock seems to have been laid exclusively at the door of Kuldeep  Narayan.A civil servant is seriously handicapped in such a contest because he is bound by strict rules of engagement where as the freewheeling politician frames his own.

The charges that have been levelled against him are laughable. If a civil servant  could be suspended for his failure to spend  the budgeted amount then  what about governments which routinely surrender thousands of crores  allocated for core sectors like health , education , agriculture  etc ; what action would be commensurate to the charge of not accounting for thousands of crores supposed to have been spent years back?

Governments have never been known to be just nor fair but pretence of even handededness is generally maintained. When it comes to dealing with those of us who do not have the talent to please, this government seems to be  merely a continuation of its predecessor in terms  of its  ruthless,  its highly unjust and vindictive  approach. Invoking rules and statutory provisions will not do because the government servant seems to enjoy the protection of rules and regulations only during the pleasure of the government. Conversely when it comes to protecting its favourites, nothing comes in its way- law of the land, its own rules, or its public policy proclamations. This government knows no moderation, either way.

I would like to appropriate Kuldeep Narayan’s situation to talk about the perversity of decision making in this government- which is merely a continuation of the earlier one- that many of us have suffered at first hand . It will also  forewarn  him and his tribe  to the kind of rough justice that they can expect.

In 2009 in my capacity as DG (Vigilance Electricity  I ordered the institution of a criminal case for the abatement of the theft of electricity and criminal misconduct against the chairman of Bihar state Electricity Board who was perceived to be extremely close to the government.   

Ever  since  I became a marked man and when nothing could be found to discipline me the government revived a patently absurd charge in July 2009  that I had disobeyed the orders of the Election commission during the November  2005  Bihar Assembly elections. Allegedly  I did not hold an enquiry into a matter relating to Jamui ordered  by the Election Commission  even though I had furnished the government a copy of the televised interview of the Chief Election Commissioner B N Tandan in which he himself had clarified that he had asked the Commissioner Munger division to hold the enquiry.  He added that he had turned down the suggestion made locally that the ADG (that is me) should hold the enquiry  when he learnt that the conduct of the SP was also involved.
(from 1.40 to 3 minutes of the 4 minute clip.)

A full scale disciplinary proceeding for disobedience of an order which was not directd at me   was initiated  . I immediately challenged it in the court. A civil servant is absolutely at a disadvantage, however vexatious and without substance the proceeding may be, because the government can make his the  act of seeking justice outside its scheme of things punitive. The litigation which is taken to the bitter end by the government is ruinous to the civil servant both financially and psychologically, whatever the outcome. The government used all the tricks of the trade – the dvd submitted with my explanation suddenly went missing, a letter written on 22 December 2006 was annexed as an exhibit in a report which had been submitted on 2ndNovember 2005 etc etc. The devil lies in the details, but that will be a digression.

The High Court said that the report had been lying with the government for years during which period I had been promoted to the rank of the DGP etc .It also saw a connection between the fact that I was the senior most IPS officer in the state and impending vacancy of the post of DG P Bihar hence the court saw no merit in the proceeding being raked up at that stage and quashed it.

The government found it difficult to stomach the idea that the courts should grant me reprieve and contemptuously   ignored the order.  The information furnished by the government in response to an RTI petition included my name as one of those facing disciplinary proceedings.  It became a constant source of vilification and PILs were filed in the High Court on the basis of this. When a news paper front paged my name as being a tainted officer on the basis of this list, fifteen months after the High Court order, I took up the matter with the chief secretary.  He did not acknowledge my letter  but through an RTI application I learnt  that the government intended to move the Supreme Court .The time limit for moving the SLP is 90 days and it was more than fifteen months  .The government did not file the SLP nor did it issue the notification.  For the record the letter to the CS is at

Why am I saying all this today? I am saying all this because despite the routine victimization of honest public servants, despite the fact that those who are the epitome of corruption and misuse of power in public domain are increasingly having their way. There are no signs of any mobilisation in the civil society and this conspiracy of silence is making the things progressively worse for officers like Kuldeep Narayan .  They are the precious drops in the ocean and it seems that unless we speak up on their behalf individually and collectively, he and his kind will have no future.