The recently appointed police chief for the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is in the soup for his alleged involvement in a 20- year-old recruitment scam, an infamous case that may cost him the key post in the embattled state.
It is feared that Dilbag Singh, the interim director general of police (DGP), may not be given the go-ahead to take on the position permanently, as the Indian authorities scrutinize a list of eligible candidates.
In a sudden change of guard, Singh had replaced Shesh Paul Vaid as the DGP in the state, where armed insurgency has been on a deadly rise despite a major offensive by the Indian government to weed out Islamist militancy for 30 years.
Though Singh is believed to be the first choice of the governor of the state, Satya Pal Malik, his tainted past has come back to haunt his police career.
In 1998, in his position at the time of deputy inspector general (DIG) of police for Anantnag and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir, Singh came under the scanner for irregularities in the recruitment of constables for the zone.
Singh, who had headed the recruitment board, was subsequently placed under suspension. But the very next year, in 1999, he was mysteriously reinstated.
Until now, it was a general perception that Singh was only among the accused in the recruitment scam, and no charges against them were proved. But Asia Times has exclusively accessed official documents that confirm his involvement in the case.
The government had constituted a high-level inquiry, which had found “gross irregularities” in the recruitment. The list that was finalized by Dilbag Singh was quashed and a fresh one was subsequently released to end public outrage at that time.
The inquiry report dating back to August 1998, titled “Alleged irregularities: of Constables Anantnag – placement responsible for the suspension,” makes some shocking revelations.
The report, of which Asia Times has obtained a copy, reads:
“Whereas vacant posts of Constable of Police of District Anantnag were referred by Director General of Police to the Recruitment Board and a select list of 470 candidates was prepared by the said Board headed by Shri Dilbag Singh, IPS Addl DIG Anantnag-Pulwama; whereas serious allegations were leveled against the selection process, and taking notice of the allegations, Director General of Police had ordered a preliminary enquiry into the said recruitment vide PHQ No:- APPtt-26536-37 dated 14-07-1998 and entrusted the same to Dr Ashok Bhan, IPS, IC Armed Police, J&K.”
According to the inquiry report, Dr Bhan, who is widely known for his honesty and integrity, “after test checking of records and carrying out verification of 31 cases, came to conclusion that gross irregularities were committed while making the selection, raising doubts about the intentions of the Recruitment Board.” The inquiry had found Dilbag Singh and then Anantnag superintendent of police (SP) Ashkoor Wani “responsible” for gross irregularities. Apart from the initial suspension, the government sought “further action” against the duo.
“Whereas the select list has been quashed by Director General of Police and a de novo recruitment has been ordered by him; now, therefore, pending further action under rules against the officers responsible for the alleged irregularities in making the recruitment, the following officers are hereby placed under suspension with immediate effect: 1. Shri Dilbag Singh, IPS Addl DIG Anantnag-Pulwama; 2. Shri Ashkoor Wani, SP Anantnag,” the inquiry report stated as filed by the additional secretary to the government, Home Department.
Interestingly, the very next the year, Singh and Wani were reinstated by the government then headed by chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.
Since then, however, for 20 long years, Singh was never posted in Kashmir until his elevation as the DGP. Ashkoor Wani, who on the other hand rose to the post of inspector-general of police, is scheduled to retire in the coming days.
Call it old friendship or coincidence, within hours of assuming the position of DGP, Singh blessed Ashkoor Wani’s daughter, Sunniya Wani, who works as deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, with a plum posting. Sunniya had recently been transferred to a remote district in Jammu by the previous DGP, S P Vaid. But in one of his very first orders, Singh brought her to Jammu city, giving her charge of Gandhi Nagar, seen as the most upscale area in the state’s winter capital.
Apex court monitoring
On September 20, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Dilbag Singh would continue as the acting DGP until the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) makes a decision on selecting a permanent name.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the UPSC to make a decision on the “suitability” of senior police officers who could be appointed as the state’s DGP within four weeks.
The state government had appointed Singh as the state’s acting DGP, replacing S P Vaid, on September 6. Vaid was shunted off to the state’s Transport Department amid serious differences with newly appointed Governor Satya Pal Malik and a major controversy over the release of relatives of militants in exchange for family members of kidnapped policemen.
The petition before the Supreme Court contended that although the senior-most officer should have been appointed after Vaid’s ouster, a junior officer was instead given the charge.
The state government cited “complex security concerns” as the reason for Singh’s unconventional appointment, and appealed to the Supreme Court to modify an earlier order making it mandatory for all Indian states to send a list of three senior-most Indian Police Service officers to the UPSC for clearance before appointing the DGP.
Officials said that while complaints including reported procurement of “substandard” safety gear for cops had already been mounting against Vaid, his alleged inability to bring the situation under control proved the last nail in the coffin.
As Vaid’s successor, Dilbag Singh emerged as the first choice by K Vijay Kumar, governor’s adviser of home affairs. Sources say Kumar is “highly impressed” with Singh for his “excellent performance” as director general of prisons and his way of being “earful” to the directives of the adviser.
Role of UPSC
Official sources say the state government has submitted a list of five senior Indian Police Service officers to the UPSC for appointment as DGP.
The list includes D R Doley Barman and Navin Agarwal, both of whom are on central deputation. A third name was that of V K Singh, who has returned from a central deputation, and is now at special DGP Police Headquarters.
But according to Home Department officials, none of the three have any apparent track record of serving in any key position that required tackling law and order, or militancy in restive Kashmir.
The other two names were Dilbag Singh and Shiv Murari Sahai, an Indian Police Service officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre, currently posted as additional secretary to the National Security Council Secretariat in the Indian capital.
Police are unwilling to comment on the issue of Dilbag Singh’s involvement in the recruitment scam.
Despite repeated phone calls and detailed e-mails sent to the office of the DGP and his Public Relations Officer by Asia Times, no one responded to the queries with regard to this story.