Officers of the Indian Administrative Service, (IAS), the top brass in the Andhra Pradesh administration, are backing ex-coal secretary Prakash Chandra Parakh and taking the lead in demanding safeguards against possible witch hunting by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

With Parakh joining the ranks of ten of the state’s IAS men and women, who are already under the CBI scanner for alleged misdemeanour during the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy regime, the Andhra Pradesh IAS Association wants the government of India to make appropriate statutory amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Criminal Procedure Code requiring prior sanction to try either a retired or a serving officer. “How could the CBI do it even without conducting a preliminary inquiry against Parakh?”, wondered the association president Prashanth Mohapatra.

Retired and senior civil servants are dismayed by the manner in which the name of Parakh, who was from the Andhra Pradesh cadre, figured in the 14th FIR filed by the CBI and the investigation agency’s allegation that he abused his official position and recommended the allocation of Talabira II along with Talabira III to Hindalco without any valid basis. They describe CBI’s charges against him as “an investigative witch hunt” and argue the FIR against him was the “tipping point.”

They suspect the CBI has registered a case against Parakh only to divert people’s attention from the coal allocation scandal. They believe the agency is proceeding against an honest officer knowing well that it would lead to protests and widespread condemnation resulting in dilution of the case. But, before coming out with their firm stand, the Andhra Pradesh IAS Association called for an extraordinary meeting of its members at which Parakh explained the sequence of events relating to the proposed policy changes on coal allocations during his tenure and what led to the allotment of the coal block to Hindalco along with the state owned Neyveli Lignite Corporation. (NLC)

The CBI has charged that there was a conspiracy in allotment of the coal block to Hindalco since it was a modification of the recommendation of the screening committee which originally allotted the coal block only to NLC. But the IAS fraternity believes that the CBI is going after Parakh to protect black sheep.

After listening to Parakh, about 100 officers who attended the association meeting, adopted several resolutions expressing its concern over the deteriorating conditions in the civil services, its impact on the morale and the threat to good governance that spring from the biased investigations by the CBI. They have urged the President of India to ensure an appropriate environment and to provide adequate safeguards for the serving and retired civil servants to perform their legitimate duties. They are also to approach the Prime Minister and central ministers to ensure necessary safeguards.

The association pointed out that “targeting senior civil servants under the lens of criminal intent strikes at the root of good governance when officers with an impeccable track record are implicated in criminal cases while excluding the political executive involved in the same policy and decision making.” It cautioned that such targeting could lead to paralysis at all levels in governance.

It has suggested amendments to Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act to extend the requirement of prior sanction in respect of retired officers for any cognisance to be taken by a court and also sought amendments to Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code ‘in view of the recent tendency’ by the CBI to bypass the prior sanction requirement. It also sought appropriate provisions in the proposed civil services performance standard and accountability bill to protect legitimate decisions taken by civil servants.

The association adopted another resolution that the investigating agencies should comply with the guidelines issued by the Central Vigilance Commission and the Department of Personnel and Training which has been reiterated by the Supreme Court recently. By another resolution, the association wanted composition of CBI teams investigating allegations of criminality in policy decisions should be expanded to include persons having experience at the appropriate level and understanding of policy formulation and business rules in government.

Courtesy: India Today