New Delhi: As many as seven crucial central agencies, including the Central Police Organisations, have been functioning without chiefs for some time now because of a delay in appointments.
These organisations — the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Delhi Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards — have all been functioning under acting chiefs.
Sudhir Kumar Saxena has been the acting director-general of CISF since 24 May, while Kuldiep Singh, who is also the DG of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), has been the acting chief of the NIA since 29 May.
Vigilance Commissioner Suresh N. Patel took over as acting head of the CVC after former commissioner Sanjay Kothari completed his term on 23 June.
The post of DG of Civil Defence and Home Guards also lies vacant, after its former chief Mohammed Jawed Akhtar died in office on 15 May due to Covid.
Meanwhile, after S.N. Shrivastava’s retirement as Commissioner of Delhi Police Tuesday, senior officer Balaji Srivastav, from the 1988 IPS batch, has been handed the “additional charge of Commissioner of Police” till the appointment of a regular incumbent or until further orders. This is in addition to his regular charge as Special CP, Vigilance.
Some acting chiefs have been heading organisations for at least a year now. At the NCB, Rakesh Asthana, also the DG of Border Security Force (BSF), has been the acting chief since December 2019 and V.S.K. Kamudi, Special Secretary (Internal Security), has been the interim head of BPR&D since August 2020.
The CBI too was functioning without a head after the retirement of R.K. Shukla in February. It was only three months later, in late May, that Subodh Kumar Jaiswal was appointed the CBI director.
The appointment of the CBI director is done on the recommendation of a three-member committee comprising the prime minister as chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court (SC).
Other appointments, meanwhile, are made by the Appointments Committee, which is headed by the prime minister and includes the home minister and other senior functionaries
Senior officials from the home ministry, who wished to remain unnamed, acknowledged that there has been a delay in the appointments.
“The work of appointing the officers is under process. We are working on it. We will not be able to divulge any more details on this,” a top ministry official said.
ThePrint reached officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Press Information Bureau via email and text messages but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
‘Acting heads do not have same moral authority’
According to a senior retired officer, it was “unprecedented that so many central organisations that play a critical role are working under acting chiefs”.
He said that the acting head does not have the same “moral authority over the post”. Moreover, even the force does not treat the acting head with much seriousness.
“It is not a desirable situation at all. A regular head brings administrative and disciplinary stability. It is very essential for these organisations to have a head for its smooth running and growth,” the officer, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
He noted that there were a number of decisions made on a daily basis in all these organisations and keeping them headless will mean piling up workload and ignoring some important things.
Moreover, the acting heads, the officer said, do not take strong, tough and uncomfortable decisions because they do not have the statutory powers for many things and they also wait for the permanent head to take over.
“Nobody wants to invest much in something, which is not permanent. So they would just end up taking care of minor administrative issues, daily files, but nothing more, which affect work, unnecessarily delays work and have serious repercussions in the long run,” he said.
‘Demoralises the force’
Another retired senior officer noted that not having a chief demoralises the force and affects the overall functioning of the organisation.
“When massive forces like these are left headless, it demoralises the entire force. It creates a sense of uncertainty and confusion as the acting chief can never function with authority, as he himself is not certain as to how many days he will be acting as chief,” the officer said.
Moreover, it is extremely frustrating for officers who are designated, aspiring to be elevated and are approaching retirement, he added.
“The officers who give their entire life to the service and are approaching retirement hardly have 1-3 years maximum to serve as chiefs, and for them each day counts. Making them wait, without any plausible reason, instills a sense of frustration in them,” the officer told ThePrint.
(Edited by Rachel John)