New Delhi: Former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey is back in the headlines, having secured voluntary retirement from the IPS overnight, presumably to join politics and contest the upcoming state elections.
He applied for the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) Monday and received the approval of his appointing authority, the Bihar government, within 24 hours.
While controversial, Pandey’s resignation from the IPS has hardly come as a surprise. For several months, there has been speculation in Bihar that he could quit the service before his retirement in April 2021 to take the political plunge.
He had also availed of the VRS in 2009, reportedly eyeing a BJP nomination from Buxar, his hometown, in that year’s Lok Sabha elections. However, when his political ambitions didn’t fructify, he was back in the IPS.
His re-induction, which took place nine months after he resigned, remains controversial to this day. While it is not unheard of for VRS applications to be accepted within a day, the fact that he was allowed back into service isn’t in line with rules.
As Pandey takes voluntary retirement once again, ThePrint explains VRS and the purpose it serves.
What is VRS?
The VRS is a government initiative that allows employees with 30 or more years of service to retire before turning 60, the official age of superannuation. Applicants need to provide three months’ notice in writing to the state or central government.
While looking to serve the interests of employees seeking an early exit, the scheme is also a means to rationalise surplus staff in the government.
According to rules laid down by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the key government recruitment agency, “At any time after a government servant has completed thirty years’ qualifying service, he may retire from service. (Provided) a government servant shall give a notice in writing to the appointing authority at least three months before the date on which he wishes to retire.”
Those who avail of the scheme get 50 per cent of their salary for the remaining period of service, along with gratuity, pension and provident fund.
The three-month notice period
As stated in the rules, it is necessary for an officer to give a three-month notice to the government before quitting. This is meant to ensure that there are no pending disciplinary or vigilance cases against the officer concerned, or other inquiries into alleged malpractices.
While the government can accept an officer’s VRS application in a day — as in Pandey’s case — it typically takes up to a month or two to clear the records of an applicant before granting them retirement.
For example, when former union secretary Subhash Chandra Garg resigned last July, the government took over a month to accept his VRS application.
After the three-month notice period, however, an officer’s resignation is deemed accepted by the government if no issues are flagged.
Speaking to ThePrint, former civil servants said there isn’t anything wrong in a VRS application being accepted in 24 hours, but added that it is rare unless a “political settlement” is involved.
“Formally speaking, there is nothing wrong with the government accepting his notice in 24 hours… Technically, it can be done,” said former IPS officer Abdur Rahman, who sought VRS last year when the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was on the verge of passage in Parliament. “But normally, it takes up to 90 days if there is no political settlement.”
Satyandand Mishra, a former secretary of the DoPT, also said the government can technically accept VRS applications in a day, but it “rarely” happens.
“For instance, I remember the case of Ajit Jogi (former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister), who resigned from the IAS, and, within a day, his VRS application was accepted.”
Another controversial aspect with respect to Pandey is the fact that he was allowed to join the service again after his VRS application was accepted by the Bihar government in 2009.
According to rules, once accepted, a VRS application cannot be withdrawn. In 2017, the government allowed for the withdrawal of VRS applications, but only if they had not been accepted by the government before the expiry of the notice period.
No cooling-off period for civil servants wishing to join politics
Unlike for post-retirement jobs in the private sector, no cooling-off period exists for IAS, IPS officers and other civil servants who quit or retire from service to join politics.
In 2012, the Election Commission recommended to the government that IAS, IPS and all-India services officers who have recently retired or resigned should be kept away from electoral politics for two years.
The proposal was rejected by the government, which argued that disallowing former civil servants to immediately join politics could violate their Right to Equality, as enshrined in the Constitution.
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