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‘Seek approval, or else’: How Modi govt is tightening grip on IPS in states yet again

MHA, in letter sent to all chief secretaries on 12 September, ordered states to get approval before promoting or appointing senior IPS officers, or risk having the posting cancelled.

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New Delhi: The Modi administration seems to be incrementally tightening its grip on how state governments appoint and promote Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. In its third such move within the past eight months, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now made it mandatory for states to seek the Union government’s approval before promoting or appointing any senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, or else risk having the posting cancelled.

While several serving and retired officers told ThePrint that this amounted to “overreach”, “interference”, and encroachment of “federal rights”, others contended that the MHA’s interventions were necessary since some states allegedly took advantage of the previous practice of informing the central government only after appointing officers to senior posts.

“There seems to be a rationale for bringing out such orders for better cadre management, although all such instructions by the Centre also run the risk of getting misused,” said N. Ramachandran, a former director general of police (DGP) and the president of the India Police Foundation (IPF), a policing and law enforcement think-tank.

“The states are equally guilty of inviting such central interference. There were dismal records of creating inappropriate positions and promoting officers out of turn. Some positions were created to bribe some officers, while some were created to park inconvenient officers,” he added.

The latest directive from the MHA, which ThePrint has seen, was sent to all chief secretaries of states on 12 September. It said that it is mandatory for state governments to get approval from the Union government before promoting or appointing any IPS officer in the “selection grade” —  which means from the rank of superintendent of police (SP) and above. The MHA’s missive further observed that many states “routinely appoint IPS officers on promotion to higher grades” without seeking approval.

Also read: ‘Chief justice calling’: How Bihar IPS officer ‘conned’ DGP into withdrawing liquor case

A tale of 2 orders and 1 proposal

The MHA’s 12 September letter points to section 3(2) of the IPS (Pay) Rules 2016, which stipulates that appointments at the level of selection grade and above “shall be subject to availability of vacancies in these grades and for this purpose, it shall be mandatory upon the state cadres or the joint cadre authorities, as the case may be, to seek prior concurrence of the central government on the number of available vacancies in each grade.”

The rule adds that any such “appointment made without obtaining prior concurrence of the Government of India shall be liable for cancellation”.

The MHA further wrote in its letter that the states “have been providing insufficient inputs making it difficult to process such proposals” (about officers being considered for appointments/ promotions). It also pointed out that “certain states do not provide response to the queries on the matter and thus, the proposals get delayed”.

The state governments have been asked to send proposals for promotions and appointments to the MHA for approval by 15 November, along with details about the officers in question.

Earlier, in April, the MHA had proposed that IPS officers from states who haven’t served on central deputation as SPs or deputy inspectors general (DIG) may be barred from serving in central agencies at senior levels. The MHA reportedly floated this proposal because the central government has the greatest number of vacancies at the SP/ DIG levels and states do not release many officers on deputation at these ranks. However, no order has been issued in this regard, said a senior IPS officer serving in a central agency.

Shortly before this, in February, the government had approved an MHA proposal to dispense with the long empanelment process for DIGs— the system through which officers from the states are chosen for service in the Union government. This, too, was done to overcome IPS vacancies.

‘Distressing’ and ‘objectionable’ 

Several retired and senior IPS officers that ThePrint spoke to have said that the MHA’s latest order signals “direct interference” into the administrative functioning of the states.

“If the state governments cannot decide where to post their officers and when to promote them, it is a serious interference in their administrative functioning,” said the DGP of a state, speaking to ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

The DGP added that the MHA’s letter reflected that the central as well as state governments were “stressed over IPS cadre control”. What concerned him, particularly, was that IPS officers seemed to be on the “receiving end” of the issue since the MHA letter stated that any appointment could be cancelled if it had been made without the central government’s approval.

“A similar order came for IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers, too, in 2015, but it did not have the provision for cancellation. For IPS officers, the government has added the line ‘liable for cancellation’, which is very serious,” he said.

ThePrint has a copy of the August 2015 letter that the police officer referred to. It was addressed from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to all the chief secretaries and asked the states to seek “prior concurrence of the Government of India” before promoting IAS officers and giving them appointments. This letter, however, did not mention cancellation of appointments.

Former IPS officer Vappala Balachandran, who retired as special secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, said that the MHA’s proposal was unprecedented and “objectionable”.

“This is clearly an overreach by the central government. There should be some study on it. It has never happened before. The standard practice for the states was to send a communication to the Centre after appointing or promoting an officer in higher positions. This is another instance of hindering federal principles and encroaching upon the federal rights of the states,” he said.

According to him, the states should contest the MHA’s proposal.

“The states must register their protest. If the Centre is prejudiced against a particular officer, they would reject the proposals related to him or her. This is also a way of curtailing the states’ rights to manage their cadres,” Balachandran said.

‘Some states don’t adhere to rules’

Among the senior IAS and IPS officials that ThePrint spoke to about the issue, some argued that the move may help bring about more “discipline” in appointments.

The chief secretary of an opposition party-ruled state examined the possible reasons behind the letter.

“It appears to be tightening, rather than distorting, in nature. It is a carefully drafted letter that intends to achieve many unstated things without stepping out of the given scheme,” he told ThePrint. “It is also a reminder to the states of the importance and authority of the MHA as the cadre management authority.”

Another senior IAS officer said that states that had been flouting rules might be more “irritated” than others by the Union government “keeping a tab”.

“There are some states that do not adhere to the rules of managing vacancies and appropriately communicating to the Centre about promoting or appointing officers. Those states may get jittery,” he said.

“Cadre management discipline is good”, he added, “as long as the Centre does not enter the domain of the states by interfering with their specific disciplinary actions or promoting powers.”

Also read: Month before retirement, IPS officer who led Ishrat Jahan probe dismissed from service


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