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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: How shaky the police reforms are in Odisha was to the fore, when the State government in complete violation of the apex court directions went ahead in appointing acting or incharge DGP in August this year.

The country's apex court in its landmark ruling last year had directed states/UTs not to appoint acting or in-charge DGP. In the year 2018,  the bench comprising chief justice Dipak Mishra, justices DY Chandrachud, and AM Khanwilkar issued significant directions regarding appointment of DGP in states/UTs.

The apex court order said no state or union territory (UT) should appoint an acting DGP. It has further asked the states and UTs that they should send the names of prospective officers to the UPSC for it to make a choice well in advance.

Despite such clear-cut directives, why the Odisha government didn't adhere to the SC directives.

Now, cut to high drama unfolded in Odisha. When as per service rules a government official has to apply for VRS three-months (90 days) prior to the VRS date sought, why the State government has not initiated the process of DGP selection well in advance when the then DGP RP Sharma sought VRS?

Significantly, a day after acceptance of RP Sharma's VRS, the Home Department issued a notification on August 7, 2019 that read as “Bijay Kumar Sharma, IPS (1986), Director General, FS, HG &CD, Odisha is allowed to remain in full additional charge of the post of DGP (Head of Police Force) until further order,”

This order showed the State government has not appointed BK Sharma as full-fledged DGP.

And the midnight notification that added a twist said, "On the recommendation of the UPSC and in interest of public service, 1986 batch IPS officer Abhay, presently director of National Police Academy (NPA), is appointed as DGP of the State."

It needs mentioning here that the DGP-designate Abhay was appointed director of NPA in July 2019. Prior to the new assignment, he was DG of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). The 1986-batch senior IPS officer from Bihar has been the senior most and will retire in 2021.

A look at the appointment to the hot seat in Odisha Police in last two decades (2000-19) reveals that barring in 2001 and 2008, when the then incumbent DGPs NC Padhi and Manmohan Praharaj, who had completed 3-year and 4-year tenures, respectively, almost all DGPs had never completed the apex court's mandated minimum of 2-years tenure for the topmost post.

Moreover, prior to the DGP appointment notification, CM Naveen Patnaik appointed a 3-member team led by Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy to probe into alleged irregularities in issuance of fire certificates. The notification further said there is a large pendency of applications for issuance of the fire safety recommendations and certificates in the Directorate of Fire Service, which caused immense inconvenience not only to the general public but also to business, industry, educational and medical establishments.

The moot point then is, was the government unaware of the 'inconveniences to public' when it vested full additional charge of DGP on BK Sharma in August this year?

Significantly, when CM Naveen Patnaik with much fanfare launched the 5T in police, the midnight drama showed how the transparency itself has been the casualty here.

Meanwhile, the buzz in power corridors is this is a fallout of new changes in the Chief Minister's Office in the month of October this year.   

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