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Friday, August 03, 2001



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Centre's move on TN police officials -- Good governance sidelined

B. S. Raghavan

JUDGED by some aspects of their handling of the issues pertaining to the fall-out of the arrest by the Tamil Nadu Government of the former Chief Minister, Mr M. Karunanidhi, and the two Union Ministers, Mr Murasoli Maran, and Mr T. R. Baalu, both the Pri me Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in charge of the Cabinet Secretariat, and the Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, in charge of All-India Services, including deployment of members of the Indian Police Service (IPS), have shown themselves less than the s easoned top-of-the-heap political veterans of stature and distinction they were assumed to be.

Either that, or they are under such constant gnawing pressure from the threesome (Messrs Karunanidhi, Maran and Baalu) to keep the heat on the State Government as to lose their savoir faire. The first symptom of their fall from grace was when they quite needlessly and unfairly ousted the then Governor of the State, Ms Fathima Beevi, for a sin she did not commit.

Not content with that gaffe, the Centre has embarked on a course which is as meaningless as it is crude, besides looking a lot like hitting below the belt. It is hell-bent on lassoing the three senior IPS officials, purportedly involved in excesses while arresting the three leaders of the DMK, an important constituent of the National Democratic Alliance. Provisions contained in the All-India Services Act and Rules have been quoted by the likes of the Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, to assert the over-rid ing powers of the Central Government to decide the nature and place of their postings in public interest as construed by it.

The issue is not about the Centre's authority; it is unambiguously there in black and white and cannot be disputed. What is worrisome is the Centre's deviousness and lack of moral courage in not facing up to its responsibility, aggravated by its tendency to resort to short-cuts and pin-pricks. The manner of its handling of the case of the three police officials is of a piece with its propensity to duck. It is objectionable on a number of major counts.

First, their conduct is the subject-matter of an inquiry by the Justice Raman Commission, before which they will be called upon to appear and explain their position. Heavens would not have fallen if the Centre had set an example in propriety by waiting u ntil the Commission went through the evidence and gave its findings for what they were worth.

Second, the officers were not on offer to the Central Government, nor were they included in the Centre's panel for deputation to posts under its control.

Instead of being a model to other Constitutional authorities in adhering to procedural norms and requirements, the Union Government is allowing itself to be seen as a perpetrator of transgressions purely for the sake of political expediency and letting i tself off the hook by placating a partner in the NDA.

Third, forcibly taking such unempanelled and unwilling officers on deputation against the wishes of the State Government does not make sense if the postings are not in the context of an unforeseen emergency for the management of which the officials were specially or uniquely qualified.

From the very fact of the posts being vague and unspecified, it is clear there is no such imperative need made out for their services.

It is a hoary principle of administration that if an official is undesirable for any reason, the straightforward course is to confront him with the grounds and punish or get rid of him, and not to transfer the virus to some other location, thereby spread ing the infection.

Looked at from every standpoint, therefore, the Centre's move in regard to the three IPS officers is fraught with pernicious consequences running counter to sound and good governance.

Related links:
Policeman's lot
Revenge, arrests, videotapes...
Union Cabinet recommends recall -- TN Governor resigns

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