Hyderabad: Back in June 2017, the Anti Corruption Bureau of Andhra Pradesh stumbled upon some WhatsApp calls made by an accused in the disproportionate assets case to a top police official holding a key post then. Just minutes before the ACB raided the accused, they were stopped from doing so. Since the matter had political ramifications in terms of caste politics, the senior police officer concerned was “spared.’’
Over the last three years, the ACB is understood to have made numerous discreet enquires against certain bureaucrats and government employees which, strangely, did not fructify into regular action and got lost along the way. But the most curious part of the affairs involving the ACB is that the N. Chandrababu Naidu-led state government has chosen not to appoint a full time Director General (DG) of the ACB, even though it has eight DG rank officials (apart from DG of Police R.P. Thakur) in the state, and instead continues to give full additional charge to Mr Thakur!
What is even more intriguing is Thursday’s order giving full additional charge of the ACB to a much junior IPS officer, Shankha Brata Bagchi, an IGP rank officer, who has been working in the ACB for the last three years and enjoys the full confidence of the top brass of the police.
Police sources told Deccan Chronicle that the Election Commission of India was seized of all matters surrounding the ACB, especially the “curious” aspects, and this was the primary reason why Thursday’s Government Order giving full charge to Mr Bagchi was issued hurriedly, just hours before DGP Thakur walked into the ECI’s office in New Delhi this evening.
On Monday, chief secretary Anil Chandra Punetha had met the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC). Issues involving R.P. Thakur and the ACB also came up for discussion at the meeting.
Even earlier, when YSRC leaders led by Rajya Sabha MP V. Vijay Sai Reddy met CEC Sunil Arora and gave a detailed presentation about the “activities” of R.P. Thakur and DG Intelligence A.B. Venkateswara Rao, various issues involving the ACB had been discussed.
Sources said Thursday’s move of relieving Mr Thakur from charge of the ACB was done to escape the wrath of the Election Commission, which was already angry with the way things were going in AP, especially after the state government chose to issue a GO nullifying the ECI’s orders of transferring DG, Intelligence, A.B. Venkateswara Rao and two other police officers.
What irked the EC even more was the state government’s decision to go ahead and file a writ petition.
“It is no coincidence that Thakur went to the EC on Thursday and the orders giving full charge to Bagchi were issued prior to that,’’ sources said. Mr Bagchi has been working as director of ACB for last three years.
Over the years, the functioning of the Andhra Pradesh ACB has been quite peculiar, particularly when it came to posting of officers, say sources.
Almost two years prior to becoming the Director General of Police of AP, R.P. Thakur, a 1986 batch IPS officer, was heading it as full time chief. But once he was appointed as DGP, that too with the state government enacting a law to appoint the DGP on its own, without involving the Union government, in June 2018, the state government gave him full additional charge of the ACB as well, until today, when a much junior officer was given charge.
There are a total of nine DG rank officers in the state, something which is peculiar to AP. Besides Mr Thakur, there are his 1986 batch mates — D. Gautam Sawang and Vinay Ranjan Ray. Then there is the 1987 batch comprising N.V. Surendra Babu, A.R. Anuradha and Tushar Aditya Tripathi. Thereafter, the state government also promoted the 1989 batch comprising A.B. Venkateswara Rao, Dwarka Tirumal Rao and K.R.M. Kishore Kumar. Besides, there are several Additional DG rank officers available in the state.
“One cannot come across any example in any state where the incumbent DGP was holding full additional charge of the agency. Normally, the DGP’s hands are always full due to law and order issues, administration and smooth running of the various units that work under his supervision. No DGP can spare time for the ACB too,’’ sources said.
The other key aspect is that the post of DG ACB is a cadre post wherein officers of DG rank are normally posted. There have been instances of Additional DGPs too having been posted who got promoted while in the ACB itself. The other cadre posts are that of the Director General of Police (who heads the police force in the state) and Director General, Vigilance and Enforcement.
Strangely, while the state government seems to have flouted norms pertaining to appointment, it kept strengthening the ACB by leaps and bounds, which many say is quite abnormal for any state government to do, how much ever it claims it is serious about tackling corruption.
To begin with, the state government sanctioned 350 additional ranks for the ACB along with 50 more employees to be outsourced, opened new buildings for the ACB in all districts one after the other, provided them with more vehicles and infrastructure. This at a time when there were other pressing issues at hand before the government, which has also been struggling with poor finances....