The curious transfer from CBI and ‘downgrading’ of ‘midnight’ Nageshwara Rao

Nageshwara Rao used to be vital to the Government that he was hastily made the CBI Chief. That is why his abrupt transfer to fire services and home guards on the budget day has surprised all

Nageshwara Rao  Photo Courtesy: PTI
Nageshwara Rao Photo Courtesy: PTI

Abid Shah

Last year in October the Government was in such panic that the then CBI director Alok Verma was sacked post-midnight and Nageshwara Rao made to replace him and join around 1.30 in the morning.

Equally unceremoniously Rao’s tenure in the CBI, where he was serving as Additional Director after the Government appointed a regular, full-time director in February this year, was cut short on Friday this week. Ironically, he has been posted as Director General of Fire Services and Civil Defence and Home Guards, a post which Verma had refused to join.

Officialdom is intrigued by sudden shifting out of Nageswara Rao from Central Bureau of Investigation yesterday -- a day when the Government and the rest of the people were otherwise totally preoccupied with the presentation of Union Budget in Parliament.

An Indian Police Service officer of Odisha cadre from 1986 batch, Rao’s premature exit from the CBI is possibly meant to do away with duality of authority and give the present CBI director a free hand. But the manner in which a pliable Rao has been shunted out to a far more insignificant post could be a signal to him as well.

It is another matter that the post of Fire Services Director General had to be downgraded a bit though “temporarily” to accommodate Rao after easing him out from the CBI. A Union Home Ministry order issued on July 5 says, “…the competent authority has approved his (Rao’s) appointment as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, by temporarily downgrading the post to the level of Additional Director General for a combined tenure up to his superannuation on July 31, 2020, or until further orders whichever is earlier.”

Alok Verma (IPS AGMUT 1979) the predecessor and full-fledged Director of present CBI chief RK Shukla (IPS MP 1983) had to leave in none-too-happy circumstances following a clash between Verma and the then Special Director Rakesh Asthana (IPS Guj 1984).

Asthana had also served as acting Director CBI, though briefly and Verma had taken charge from Asthana who was officiating as Director at that point of time. Somewhat similarly, Shukla too took charge from Rao who has been officiating as Director until early February when a change of guards took place for the top post of the CBI.

It had the potential of creating and continuing with virtually two equals at the top of crucial Central probe organisation. This could have been more so given the experience of the past where things went as bad as to make Verma and Asthana to move to Supreme Court and Delhi High Court respectively to prove their points and seek reprieve from the courts to save their posts.

Significantly, this order vis-à-vis Rao’s new posting came on a day when Budget had turned everybody’s attention to Finance Minister’s speech in Parliament and its economic and fiscal implications.

The Government opted the Budget Day to pass orders for Rao’s posting out of the CBI to ensure that little attention is paid to the curious development. While the plan may have succeeded, it is too early to say that questions will not be raised.

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