New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the government to expedite the process of granting better pay benefits to central armed police forces (CAPFs), which it had first ordered in February this year.
However, while the apex court has asked the Centre to complete the process within two months, its execution remains mired with confusion and alleged foul play.
Responding to a contempt petition filed by a serving officer of Border Security Force (BSF), the Supreme Court on 31 July said the government has not fully complied with its February order and asked the Centre to complete the process of granting better pay benefits to CAPF officers within two months.
While it disposed of the petition filed by the BSF officer, who had argued the government is not complying with the SC order, it did not accept the compliance report filed by the Centre, arguing that the actual fixation of NFFU still remains to be done.
The apex court had in its February 2019 order extended the status of organised group ‘A’ services (OGAS) to the CAPF officers and granted them Non Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU), thereby putting an end to a decade-old battle by CAPF to attain parity in terms of pay and promotions with their counterparts in the Indian Police Service.
NFFU refers to the process by which whenever an IAS officer gets empanelled at a particular rank at the Centre, all their Group-A service counterparts also get upgraded to the same rank on a non-functional basis after two years irrespective of whether they are actually promoted or not.
The Union cabinet also gave its nod to the decision in July following which the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued orders for cadre review of these forces.
However, several CAPF officers have alleged that the IPS lobby is still trying to thwart the implementation of the court order despite approval from the cabinet.
The stumbling blocks
In the aftermath of the cabinet approval, boards have been formed in each CAPF to determine the NFFU amount for each rank and each batch in each force. However, this process has already hit several hurdles.
Consider this: The board formed in the BSF for this purpose on 11 July has been dissolved, its recommendations rejected and a new board constituted. While the first board consisted of BSF officers only, the new board consists of two IPS officers and two BSF officers, and is also headed by one of the IPS officers.
Fearing foul play, the two BSF officers named in the board have sought recusal from being part of the new board. In their communication, they have stated that the new board intends to grant NFFU to cadre officers on the basis of their existing Recruitment Rules (RRs), instead of revising their RRs in accordance with their status as “organised” services. This, the two officers have contended, amounts to contempt.
According to DoPT rules, it is incumbent upon the government to revise the RRs of all the CAPFs in order to ensure that they are in sync with their OGAS status.
However, BSF officers who ThePrint spoke to said if the RRs of the CAPFs are revised, the possibility of IPS officers heading their forces will be significantly limited, and, therefore, attempts are being made to not revise the RRs across forces.
When contacted, BSF Inspector General Sandeep Salonke, who is an IPS officer, said, “This is an internal matter of the force, and does not warrant a public debate.”
A similar drama unfolding in CRPF
A similar drama is being played out in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) whose board to fix the NFFU is also headed by an IPS officer — leading to concerns that the CRPF too may not revise its RRs in accordance with the SC order.
“The person who has been appointed to head this board is not even a personnel or establishment officer…He is responsible for communication, yet he has been appointed to head this board just because he is an IPS officer,” a senior CRPF officer said.
“This has led to a lot of concern among cadre officers… “First, we thought we’ll finally get our due after the SC judgment, but hurdles are being created at every level,” the officer added.
Last week, ThePrint had reported that in a controversial internal communication, the CRPF had said that it doesn’t want its RRs to be amended and rejected the SC order that gives the force parity with the IPS — a move senior officers of the CRPF claim has been taken “under pressure” from the IPS lobby.
Atul Karwal, IG, Personnel, CRPF said, “The board is headed by this officer (the one heading the CRPF board) because the board could not be accommodated within the CRPF headquarters…In order to expedite the process, the board was made to sit in the R.K. Puram office, where this officer sits.”
“It was just a logistical reason,” he added.
Arguing that the CRPF is keen to follow the SC order expeditiously, Karwal said, “There is no reason for IPS officers to not want to implement the SC judgment…We realise that the force has to work harmoniously, and that is always our intention.”
He added that it is true that the CRPF RRs are not being revised immediately but that is because a plea requiring clarification to this effect is pending in the apex court.
Meanwhile, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) which does not come under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has already upgraded its RRs, sources said. The RPF was also given the status of OGAS along with the CAPFs.