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In a first, Govt retires J&K IGP in public interest

Senior IPS officer Basant Kumar Rath has been handed over premature retirement “in public interest” by the Ministry of home affairs.

Srinagar: In a first in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered premature retirement from service of senior IPS officer Basant Kumar Rath with immediate effect.

An officer of the 2000 IPS batch, initially allotted Jammu & Kashmir cadre, Rath, like all other J&K cadre IPS officers had been placed in AGMUT cadre after abrogation of Article 370 and reorganisation of the erstwhile State in August 2019.

In 2009-2011, Rath served as SSP Jammu. Later, he was elevated to the ranks of DIG and IGP. After serving as IGP Traffic J&K in the PDP-BJP Government, Rath was sidelined on a Home Guards posting where he was placed under suspension and an inquiry was instituted against his conduct based on reports of the Intelligence Bureau.

As per Rath’s statements, IB reported that he was linked to terrorists and Pakistan’s ISI.

According to official sources, Rath, an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, became a suspect in the police service after he published a number of articles in The Indian Express and the news portal The Wire in which he harshly criticised IPS and IAS officers. Sources say that some of his articles were seen as “seriously harmful” to the State, national interest and in violation of the service conduct rules.

One of his widely published poems on more than 50 civilian demonstrators killed in the CRPF firing at Gawkadal in Srinagar in January 1990, was also reportedly seen as “anti-national content” by the MHA. On account of such articles and poems, Rath was hugely popular in Kashmir’s separatist-militant ecosystem and a number of Srinagar youths, allegedly including stone pelters, used to publicly praise him and click pictures with him. He was the only senior police officer who used to visit downtown Srinagar and sometimes play cricket with the youngsters known to be stone pelters and anti-Indian.

In 2020, Rath began criticising J&K Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, levelling serious allegations of corruption against him on his Twitter handle. He subsequently attacked Dr Suneem Khan, a Kashmiri Muslim physician working as a Medical Officer in the CRPF, perceiving him close to Dilbag Singh. Dr Khan filed a complaint against Rath with Srinagar District Police alleging that Rath’s social media content had invoked threats to his life from terrorists.

Both police as well as a subordinate judicial court rejected Dr Khan’s petition. He filed an appeal to District and Sessions Court of Srinagar which subsequently ordered registration of an FIR against Rath. Last week, the court in Srinagar issued a non-bailable warrant and ordered Rath’s appearance. However, Rath filed a complaint to the senior authorities, claiming that he had not been contacted or called by the inquiry officer for recording of his statement.

Meanwhile, Rath submitted representations to the UT’s Financial Commissioner/Additional Chief Secretary Home, Raj Kumar Goyal, and the Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla. He subsequently posted open letters against the DGP to Goyal and Bhalla. Later, through his Twitter and Facebook accounts, Rath also directed allegations and aspersions on Goyal and Bhalla. He also complained against many of his superior officers to the Cabinet Secretary, demanding his dismissal from service or acceptance of his application of premature retirement from service.

Rath also posted a video on his social media handles, addressing Bhalla and Dilbag Singh contemptuously and threatening to make the latter’s life “miserable”. He is heard saying that he was facing charges of being linked to terrorists and Pakistan’s ISI.

According to the official communications, last fortnight, MHA extended Rath’s suspension for a further period of 6 months, pending enquiry against him.

On 7 August 2023, an official memorandum from Police Division in the MHA, addressed to Joint Secretary UT Division, Ashutosh Agnihotri, and singed by Director Sushma Chauhan said: “The Central Government, after careful consideration of the proposal of the UT Division and the performance of Shri Basant Kumar Rath, IPS (AGMUT: 2000) has come to the conclusion that the officer is not fit to be retained in service in public interest. The Central Government has, therefore, decided to retire Shri Basant Kumar Rath, IPS (AGMUT: 2000) prematurely from service, in public interest, under Rule 16(3) of the AIS.

Also read: What changed in Kashmir: 4 years before & after abrogation of Article 370