New Delhi: A police officer in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) doesn’t actually need to be a police officer by training anymore. Now, officers with backgrounds in telecom, accounts, revenue, and other government services may be granted the status of a bona-fide superintendent of police (SP) or deputy inspector general (DIG).
A 30 March order, issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), has stated that the “competent authority” — that is, the selection committee of the CBI — has approved the induction of six SPs, of which four are not from the Indian Police Service (IPS).
These four officers include two from the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and one each from the Indian Telecom Service (ITS) and Indian Defence Account Service (IDAS).
This, according to some senior CBI officers, could be the beginning of full-fledged “lateral entry” to the agency from other government services, although there have been some limited precedents of recruiting non-IPS officers since 2014.
Currently, not counting the SPs approved for induction last month, there are half a dozen non-IPS officers with supervisory powers in the CBI.
Speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, senior IPS officers said under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), only a police officer can conduct investigations, arrest suspects, and carry a weapon without a licence. The CBI technically qualifies as a ‘police station’, since it is an organisation where people can register criminal complaints.
Now, the government can notify an officer of any service with police powers, as part of a policy decision.
These developments have been greeted with mixed reactions from serving and retired IPS officers who were or are in the CBI. While some welcomed the move to have experts from different fields in the agency, others emphasised the importance of having trained police officers.
ThePrint has texted and emailed detailed queries about lateral recruitment to the DoPT and CBI for their official comments. This article will be updated when they respond.
Recruitments of non-IPS for ‘specific expertise’ since 2014
A scan through CBI posting orders (which are issued by the DoPT) since 2012 revealed that the practice of inducting non-IPS officers in the investigative agency began in 2014.
In May that year, the government posted an IRS officer called Sanjiv Gautam as a DIG. Two years later, in September 2016, Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra, another IRS officer from the Income Tax Department, was inducted in the CBI as an SP on deputation. In 2017, Gautam’s tenure was extended and in 2021, Mishra’s extension was approved.
In 2019, three more IRS officers were inducted as SPs in the CBI, followed by an Indian Audit & Accounts service (IA&AS) officer at the same rank in 2021.
“The CBI is now investigating many financial and bank frauds and huge scams, for which we need specific expertise. So, we are bringing able officers from specific areas of operations and posting them accordingly,” a serving senior officer of the CBI told ThePrint.
“It is a policy decision by the government. After their induction, they were authorised with police powers,” he added.
Police officers divided about lateral entry to CBI
While some IPS officers are aghast that the CBI, which has the technical status of a police station, is now reposing police powers in officials from other services, others have suggested that the organisation could benefit from lateral hires.
“The CBI is a multi-disciplinary organisation. It has been evolving in terms of its functioning and investigations,” a senior IPS officer of additional director general (ADG) rank said.
This officer, who has also served in the CBI for years, added: “It is true that officers coming from other streams of services are not trained as police, but the CBI has units in which they do not need to carry weapons.”
The officer suggested that there was more fluidity in recruitments in general. “The state governments are now recruiting IPS officers in IAS cadre posts.”
N. Ramachandran, president of Indian Police Foundation (IPF) and former DGP of Assam and Meghalaya, seconded the view that the CBI could benefit from officers with diverse backgrounds.
“Investigation has become multidisciplinary in nature. There is a lot of need for experts in several fields. So, this is a good development,” he said, adding the caveat that such hires should be “proportionate” so that “opportunities for the IPS officers don’t get curtailed”.
However, another senior officer who also served in the CBI and other central agencies expressed reservations.
“Policing requires specific training. How can any officer become a police officer? There are a lot of technicalities involved. Training in IPC (Indian Penal Code) and CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), filing of chargesheets are specific to police officers,” he said. “It is rare and unusual that an accounts officer or a telecommunication officer is being posted as superintendent of police.”
This officer said that the selection of CBI recruits from other disciplines also seemed “arbitrary”.
“There is a committee that selects the officers, but we do not know the parameters yet. So, the government should come up with clear guidelines for lateral entry,” the officer added.
Other countries have also experimented with lateral entry to police organisations. For instance, in 2014, police departments in the UK launched a stream for “direct entry” scheme for people from other backgrounds.
According to a University of Portsmouth PhD thesis, which conducted a critical analysis of the direct entry into senior leadership roles in the police, the move was a “watershed for policing” in England and Wales since it offered an opportunity to address problems like the “lack of diverse perspectives within the chief officer ranks, cultural blockages, underrepresentation by BME [black and minority ethnic] communities”.
The study, however, also warned that “it should not necessarily be assumed that direct entry into the superintendent rank is automatically a method of increasing diversity within chief officer ranks”. Further, the “ability of these direct entrants to secure promotion to the highest levels of the service is, as yet, unproven,” the thesis said.
According to a July 2019 written answer in the UK parliament to question about police recruitment, 17 people joined the “direct entry to inspector” scheme in 2016, 21 in 2017, and 17 in 2018. The programme, however, has reportedly been beset by “limited uptake” and the College of Policing, which is the professional body for the police in England and Wales, has paused it since 2019.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)