Sunday, December 05, 2021

Black Band, Red Card

By threatening government over arrest of their colleague, IAS officers in Bihar set a disturbing example.

Written by Editorial |
March 2, 2017 12:30:13 am

IAS officers in Bihar are on the warpath over the arrest of a senior member of their fraternity. Sudhir Kumar, the chairman of the Bihar Staff Selection Commission (BSSC), was arrested by a special investigation team of the Patna police recently in connection with the leak of questions and answers concerning a competitive examination. Last week, the IAS Officers Association decided to wear black arm bands to work to protest what they say was police highhandedness and threatened that no official would take up the post of Kumar, who is under suspension following the arrest. They have promised to continue the protest until Kumar is released from the jail and the case is transferred to the CBI. The IAS body also declared that hereafter verbal orders from ministers, including the chief minister, will not be obeyed.

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The concern among bureaucrats for a fellow officer is touching — but entirely misplaced. Kumar has been accused of alleged irregularities and favours to his relatives by helping them access the question paper. Certainly, IAS officers have a right to defend a colleague and talk about his “unblemished record in service so far,” but they are expected to know the meaning of due process and the rule of law. That’s why the protest sends out a disturbing message. It has the trappings of a power elite threatening the political executive for not protecting their privileges. The government has done well not to bow to their pressure. Nearly 17.5 lakh candidates were to take the BSSC exam, which the government was forced to cancel following the leak of papers. It is important that the people behind the paper leak are traced and booked. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said the SIT will be given a free hand to investigate and an example will be made of the investigation. There is no reason to fault the CM unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise in the police investigation. If the IAS officers want to be taken seriously, they should stand up for a fair probe. Instead, they have revealed a clannish intent to safeguard one among them at the expense of dispensing with the credibility of the executive.

The veiled threat the IAS body holds out is that officials can slow down the administration; Nitish Kumar’s success as an administrator had a lot to do with the synergy and trust he had built with bureaucrats. This case seems to have breached that trust and while the government must ensure that due process is followed in this case, the officers need to step back and let the law take its course.

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