New Delhi: Four top Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers are seeking “respectful rehabilitation” in other police organisations, after Tapan Deka took charge as the agency’s new director Thursday, ThePrint has learnt.
The officers all belong to the 1988 batch of the Indian Police Service (IPS) — the same as Deka, who was chosen by the government as the IB chief on 25 June — and were nominally senior to him.
Deka, who superseded these four officers to become IB director — the most prestigious and senior position across the central security agencies — previously commanded counter-terrorism operations at the IB for several years, and played a key role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack investigation.
The four officers — Anish Dayal Singh, Manoj Yadav, Manoj Lal and Amitabh Ranjan — all serve as special directors in the IB, like Deka before his promotion.
The four officers are nominally senior (in terms of age and rank) to Deka within the batch — an issue of prestige in the hierarchy-driven central police organisations.
While Manoj Yadav has been the most senior in the IB, Anish Dayal Singh was second, and Amitabh Ranjan and Manoj Lal, third and fourth, respectively, in terms of seniority.
A fifth officer in the IB, Manmohan Singh, also belongs to the 1988 batch, but is junior to Deka.
There were two other officers, from the 1987 batch, who were even more senior to Deka, but they have already been transferred to other posts, something that’s not been done for these four yet.
Two of the four superseded officers, contacted by ThePrint, declined to comment.
The officers said they never had any resentment among them.
“It is a government decision and it is supreme. We all accept that. But we have a request to the government and that is about respectful rehabilitation. All of us (four officers) should be rehabilitated in a respectful position, and should not be humiliated after serving the country for over three decades now,” said one of the four superseded officers.
Deka’s succession is not unique, or the first instance of a junior officer being promoted to the top position, say those in the know.
But serving and retired IB officers told ThePrint how the situation could point to brewing personnel-management problems in the IPS.
The government increased the intake of IPS officers to 200 in 2020, from 150 in 2019.
Enough top-level positions, though, don’t currently exist to absorb these numbers as they have grown in the organisation. Officers are assured promotion by virtue of fixed numbers of years of service.
According to a senior serving IPS officer, who did not want to be quoted, the problem lies in deputation management.
“IB only absorbs willing officers and trains them accordingly. Superseding officers in the structure of intelligence is not uncommon, but the government has to position others properly and appropriately, as they have also served the nation for over three decades,” the officer said.
“In IB, everything is managed until the joint director level, but the problem starts when half a dozen or more officers from the same batch get promoted as directors-general. And there are officers who serve on extensions post-retirement, while some hold two charges simultaneously.”
Most IPS officers currently empanelled to serve as directors general (DGs) of important government agencies are awaiting a rank-appropriate posting, while nine officers are either serving post-retirement extensions in these postings, or juggling roles as DGs of more than one organisation, across central and state organisations.
“There has to be a careful strategy to prune people who don’t have a shot at top jobs,” a former IB director told ThePrint. “Or there is going to be a lot of politicking and bad blood, of the kind that already mars state police forces.”
The Union government has since 2014 increasingly pushed for organisational leadership to be based on merit, rather than traditional service criteria.
Samant Goel, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), received a second extension in service this week, making him the longest-serving foreign intelligence chief since the organisation’s founder, Rameshwarnath Kao, and Naushervan Framji Suntook. Goel was appointed RAW chief in 2019.
Earlier governments, too, sometimes applied criteria other than seniority to make appointments to lead the Intelligence Bureau.
Former spy chief Asif Ibrahim, for example, was made director in 2013, although now-Tamil Nadu governor R.N. Ravi and former special secretary in charge of security Yashovardhan Azad were senior to him at the time.
As in the past, the Modi government sought to ease the path to Deka’s appointment by transferring a few who were senior to him.
A.S. Rajan, a 1987-batch officer, and the most senior in the Intelligence Bureau until this week, was appointed director of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy — where senior police leadership is trained — earlier this week. Another 1987-batch officer, Swagat Das, was made a special secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs at the same time.
In 2021, Sheel Vardhan Singh, who would have been among the contenders for the top job at the IB, was made Director General of the Central Industrial Security Force.
The four officers from Deka’s batch who lost the top IB post to him would also have been eligible for appointment as director general of the National Investigation Agency — but that job went to former Punjab Police officer Dinkar Gupta, a 1987-batch officer and their senior.
Talking to The Print, retired IPS officer Vappala Balachandran, former special secretary, cabinet secretariat and a national security expert, said, “In agencies like IB and RAW, the positions for the chiefs are very, very sensitive. And this is the same for the military too.
“The government or the competent authority chooses the one they think is the most competent person. These are all key appointments and these persons are responsible for making policies. So, there are several factors that come into play when the government picks one as the chief.”
He added: “Seniority is one of many factors, but not the most important one. It has happened earlier also under previous governments, including Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. So, this is not a new thing, but the government should consult and position the superseded officers respectfully.”
Top positions in various services are due to fall vacant in coming months, among them the director general of the Central Reserve Police Force in September. Gujarat-cadre 1988-batch officer Atul Karwal, who has had a long service in the CRPF, is expected to get that job.
“Finally, appropriate positions will be found for the four officers,” a senior Intelligence Bureau officer said, “and there will be no real damage done”. “But it points to the need for much better personnel management, especially as IPS numbers grow,” the officer added.
Anticipating problems ahead, the Union government has curtailed the number of senior IPS officers empanelled to serve in the central government, and introduced rigorous appraisal criteria, modelled on private-sector practices.
Amitabh Mathur, an IPS officer who retired in 2014 as the head of ARC, the aviation wing of the RAW, said, “There is nothing unusual. It keeps happening in such organisations, and happened earlier too. The other officers should be adjusted in other positions and the government generally does it.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)