More than one IAS officer in Patna today admitted that despite directions of the Supreme Court, bureaucrats continue to follow oral instructions from ministers and seniors. The admission followed a resolution by IAS Association of Bihar that henceforth the Members would not follow verbal instructions even from the chief minister, an admission that they have indeed been doing so.
But even the IAS Association is not united on the arrest of the 1987 batch IAS Sudhir Kumar. While 125 members participated at the meeting convened to condemn the arrest, 18 of them including the President and the Vice President of the Association refused to sign the memorandum submitted to the Governor.
While the arrest has pitted the IAS (Indian Administrative Service) against another All India Service, the IPS (Indian Police Service), questions have also been raised about the role of the Chief Secretary. “Why was Sudhir Kumar not transferred immediately after the question paper leak surfaced in the first week of February,” asked a former IAS officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh, who opted for voluntary retirement from service last year.
The state’s Staff Selection Commission, of which the arrested IAS officer was the chairman, was in the process of recruiting over 13,000 clerical staff. But while the tests were being held over a period of three weeks from January 29 this year, there were allegations of leak within days and the test paper was found to have been sold through a coaching institute and shared on WhatsApp within days of the first test.
While the examination was quickly cancelled, a Special Investigating Team was formed to conduct the inquiry. The SIT found that five close relatives of the chairman had also applied to take the test. And inquiries led to his nephew who allegedly confessed that he had picked up the question paper from the officer’s parental home in Hazaribagh (Jharkhand), but instead of destroying the paper, he had ‘shared’ it with a coaching institute on the promise that he would also receive part of the proceeds.
While the arrest of the senior IAS officer is clearly meant as a signal to the bureaucracy by the political establishment, there are doubts about the message being conveyed. While IAS officers argue that there was no need to arrest and humiliate the senior officer and he could have been put under suspension till the trial got over in court, IPS officers in the state have been privately justifying the arrest.
Police officers smirk at the allegation that while the IAS officer was picked up from his father’s house in Jharkhand at 10.55 pm on February 23, the FIR records his arrest at 11.45 am the following day from the Patna Veterinary College Guesthouse. An hour before that, the delegation of the IAS Association had started its meeting with the Chief Secretary who had confirmed that Kumar had been arrested.
While IPS officers do not believe the discrepancy to be serious or flawed, IAS officers seem to suggest that it was a serious lacuna in the FIR, which, they also maintain, does not provide any evidence of the officer’s involvement or even knowledge of the leak.
The slugfest is unlikely to end soon even as administration in the state comes to a grinding halt.