(Symbolic, not a real scene in the CBI office. Downloaded from internet.)
Bad blood between No. 1 and No. 2 is not unique to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The instances may be found in several government and private organisations. Bad blood between any two colleagues, one junior and one senior and/or two colleagues of equal rank, is also quite common. The difference is that whatever good or bad the CBI officers do becomes news but such episodes in other organisations rarely come to public knowledge.
My experience is that no No. 2 would openly complain against his senior unless he (No. 2) is a person of conviction and has very strong reasons to do so. It is also my experience that in most of the cases of hostility, the junior is the loser unless he has a strong backing of powerful persons at levels above his senior. I will share two of my personal experiences and one instance about which I got reliable information.
In 1982, when I was Deputy Director in the Directorate of Organisation & Management (DOMS) of the Department of Income Tax, the No. 1, Director, was a sadistic person. The differences between us started when I refused to carry out his order to prepare a dossier on each employee to be used against him/her in future when the boss was not pleased. This was his way of harassing whomsoever he disliked. I considered it unethical. He got angry with me. Our cordial relationship that began sometime in 1969 ended. Once he pushed me in a situation in which I could have been arrested. Luckily, in the month of December, I was selected for my second deputation to the erstwhile Planning Commission. He tried his level best to stop me from going because he had not yet succeeded in spoiling my career. I was saved when the then Secretary Personnel intervened.
In 1998, when I was Additional Secretary in the Department of Programme Implementation, I had a very nasty Secretary who belonged to the 1964 batch of IAS, only one year senior to me. He was quite notorious for not doing any work. He spent office time reading novels. I had established my reputation as an expert on project appraisal and monitoring. (Those who are not very much familiar with me may accuse me of being immodest.) He admitted my expertise but became very jealous of me because I used to get credit for everything the Department was doing. To take credit for the reports I would prepare, he would replace the last page that contained my signature, with another page on which he would sign. (I have preserved a specimen.) He would not miss any opportunity to create hurdles for me or to show his dislike for me. When my tenure was coming to an end, a number of my well-wishers including a former Secretary of the Department tried for my extension. In a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries, the Cabinet Secretary raised the issue of extension and asked my Secretary for his views. My Secretary emphatically told the Cabinet Secretary, “I don’t want to see his face.” I lost the battle because I had no political backing.
The third example is more serious. Sometime in 1990 or 1991, in the erstwhile Planning Commission, the No. 2 of a Division sent a written complaint to the Secretary that his boss, the Adviser, was a corrupt person who was trying to recommend a project costing several hundred crores of rupees which was against the interest of the country. It became a CBI case but was hushed up, reportedly after a deal. Nothing happened to the Adviser. Luckily, the No. 2 also escaped any adverse action. I had known both of them for several years. The No. 2 had worked as my No. 2 in that very Division. He was a very competent and honest officer. We had excellent relationship.
Such incidents take place primarily because of (a) clash of interests and/or jealousy, (b) absence of mechanism to ensure that only fair and competent persons go to the top, and (b) absence of mechanism to ensure that the juniors are not harassed by the boss.
In the case of the CBI, there is a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to supervise its work. However, that has not stopped corrupt practices in the CBI. A couple of Directors were known to adopt corrupt means to gain favour of rich and powerful. The UPA government rewarded such a Director by appointing him a Member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). He had to resign from the post only when his proximity to the notorious meat exporter and racketeer Moin Qureshi became a public knowledge. His successor is also a suspect because of his proximity to the powerful politicians and businessmen including Moin Qureshi.
The differences between CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana had been growing for more than one year. In July 2017, Asthana had raided Lalu and his family for Lalu’s involvement in the IRTC scam despite Verma’s eleventh hour direction not to do so. It was the same Asthana who as SP CBI had interrogated Lalu for six hours in the fodder scam that led to his arrest in 1997.
The differences between the two became very ugly because of the failure of the CVC and the Prime Minister to take timely remedial action. Perhaps both were taken aback by what had been going. However, the quality of the leadership is judged by appropriate action during crisis. The CVC issued notice to Verma only after the Cabinet Secretary forwarded Asthana’s written complaint of September 4 this year (against his boss) to the CVC and asked the latter to take action. In a recent communication to the government the CVC complained that Verma refused to appear in response to its notice.
We do not know how closely the CVC and the PMO are monitoring the progress in numerous cases involving high and mighty like Chidambaram, Lalu, Vijay Mallya, Robert Vadra and Moin Qureshi. They all know how to influence the government machineries and investigating agencies. Unless an officer is very honest and is capable of not yielding to pressure, he easily falls in the net of corrupt persons. Doing illegal things for reward from business houses and/or political masters is a very common practice.
A question that must be haunting many is whether the powerful crooks under investigation are behind the ugly face of the CBI. It is naive to expect that all the powerful fellows under investigation are patiently waiting for the result. They would go to any extent to stop adverse results. Never underestimate their power to influence investigation.
If the CVC really keeps an eye on the performance of the CBI, Alok Verma’s soft corner for Lalu would not have escaped its notice. It should have intervened last year itself when Verma opposed action against Lalu.
As I said earlier, a couple of CBI Directors yielded to temptations. They willingly became ‘caged parrots’. When elections are not far away and a pliable officer believes that the present government would not return to power, he/she would like to please those who are likely to come to power. Such officers use pliable subordinates to achieve their personal goals.
In the present case it is very disturbing to see that Alok Verma became so vindictive that exceeding his authority he ordered an FIR to be fileds against his No. 2. Perhaps, he did so because he was confident that since he enjoyed autonomy and a fixed tenure, nobody would touch him. Too much security of job can be counter-productive. The CVC should have immediately taken action on this.
If any enquiry is conducted into the allegations and counter- allegations, the investigating team must look into the ground realities about the CBI as mentioned above.
Hope, the Modi government would ensure that the CBI investigations against powerful crooks are not derailed.
October 25, 2018
PS (Nov 16, 2018)
During hearing on the complaint against exiled CBI Director Alok Verma, the Supreme Court said on Nov 16 that the CVC is “complimentary on some charges, not-so-complimentary on some charges and very uncomplimentary on some charges,”
Visit www.devendranarain.com for interesting eyeopening articles.