NEW DELHI: During the much talked about recent mass scale transfers in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)—an exercise which was taken up after a very long time—no official has been moved out of Delhi. The mass scale “transfers” involved 281 Crime Assistants, Upper Divisional Clerk (UDC), Lower Divisional Clerk (LDC) and Office Superintendents.
In fact, all of them have been shifted from one office to another within the CBI’s Delhi headquarters.
This has led to questions being raised within the 4,000-plus strong member agency as to the significance of this step, with some calling
it a “cosmetic” exercise to “fool” the top echelons of the country.
CBI officials believe that this fruitless exercise was conducted to show the government that action was being taken, and to gather media headlines, which it did.
An official within the agency said: “The CBI top brass is saying that this ‘major shakeup’ was done as a part of its new rotation policy to make sure that officials who were posted in the same place were moved to other places. However, the transfer details tell a totally different story. In more than 70% of the cases, the transfer has led to the officer concerned being shifted to a different office in the same floor. In other cases, he has been shifted to an adjacent block. The logic behind moving people from one place to the other is to make sure that they do not develop relations with undesirable entities or are cultivated by vested interests, which they are prone to if they spend a lot of time in one place. In the present exercise, none of the 281 officials have been transferred to other cities. It was just an eye-wash directed at the government, which has been diligently keeping an eye on the working of the agency after infighting broke out in the agency last year.”
Out of those who have been “affected” by the recent exercise, many were working in the same office for more than 10 years.
The transfer exercise was carried out to increase “efficiency”, the CBI has claimed and it comes soon after a 21 August communication from CBI Joint Director (administration) A.K. Bhatnagar, who had asked heads of various units to prepare a list of officials working under them who had been posted at the same place for a long time. They were asked to furnish the data by 10 September. The transfer order was executed on 20 September under the orders of Bhatnagar.
Interestingly, Bhatnagar himself is facing a Ranchi High Court mandated CBI inquiry, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court, to ascertain his alleged involvement in a fake encounter case that took place in Jharkhand in 2015.
His name had recently come up in the media after a serving CBI DSP had written to the PMO and other vigilance agencies highlighting the alleged role played by Bhatnagar in this alleged fake encounter of 12 people, including five minors.
In October 2018, the Ranchi High Court had ordered a CBI inquiry into the alleged fake encounter that took place on 8-9 June 2015 at Palamu in which the security forces had killed 12 people after branding them as Maoists. Bhatnagar, a 1989-batch Jharkhand-cadre IPS officer, who was appointed joint director in CBI in January 2018, was then posted as inspector-general, Jharkhand police. Among those who were killed was a 10-year-old boy. The family members of the victims had termed the encounter as fake and alleged that innocent people had been branded as Maoists and bumped off to seek out-of-turn promotions.
The Ranchi High Court, while mandating a CBI inquiry into the encounter, had relied on the statements given by the then DIG Palamu, Hemant Toppo, and the then sub-inspector Harish Chandra Pathak, both of whom gave an affidavit to the court that the “encounter” never took place. Both of these officers were soon “shunted” out.
Also transferred was the then ADG, CID, M.V. Rao who, while investigating the encounter, had started moving into the “right directions” as the court opined.
The High Court, while ordering a CBI inquiry, had also found that contrary to the statements made by the encounter team, not a single bullet casing was found inside the Scorpio vehicle that these “Naxals” were travelling in. The encounter team had stated that the “Naxals” had fired indiscriminately on the police party from inside the car. Also not found was blood at the encounter site, which would normally be the case if 12 people were killed at the same spot in an encounter.
After the High Court’s order, the CBI had registered an FIR in the case on 19 November 2018. What has also raised eyebrows is that the CBI Investigating Officer in this case has been changed multiple times in the short period of 10 months ever since the agency took over the case in October 2018.
Jawahar Yadav, the parent of one of the 12 dead, had recently written to CBI Director Rishi Shukla alleging that the policemen involved in the encounter were threatening the family members of the victims to take back the case. He had also prayed to Shukla to keep Bhatnagar out of the probe as he himself was one of the accused. Yadav had also alleged that despite more than 10 months of the FIR being registered, the agency had not moved even “inches’ in the case, while adding that this was happening due to the involvement of Bhatnagar being in an influential position in the agency.
Nitin D. Wakankar, Chief Spokesperson, CBI, responding to The Sunday Guardian’s query, said: “It is stated that RC 04(S)/2018(Bakoria/Bhaluvahi Encounter Case, Jharkhand) was registered in compliance to the orders dated 22.10.2018 of Hon’ble High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi passed by in W.P.(Cr.) No.312 of 2016 relating to alleged attack and firing by Maoist Extremist Organisation on Police personnel with intention to kill them, earlier registered at Police Station Daltonganj, Palamu (Jharkhand), was taken up by CBI. The matter is under investigation. Till now, no evidence has surfaced on record during the investigation conducted so far against A.K. Bhatnagar, then IG, Jharkhand Police, Jharkhand.”