3 agencies including ED, SPG on lookout for new chiefs
There are only two days to go before the term of Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief Sanjay Mishra ends
New DelhiWith just two days to go before the term of Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief Sanjay Mishra ends, the central government is yet to call a meeting of the panel led by the Central Vigilance Commissioner to appoint the next chief of the premier investigation agency. However, ED isn’t the only body that’s waiting for a new boss — the Special Protection Group (SPG) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) are also waiting for new chiefs.
While there has been much speculation about Mishra taking on a key role in the government that will allow him to continue to oversee money laundering cases, the officer himself has said that he will lead a retired life starting this weekend. However, before he leaves office, he is likely to make his recommendation for the next ED director. According to section 25 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, a panel comprising the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), two vigilance commissioners, and secretaries of home, finance, and department of secretary of personnel will deliberate on nominees for the next chief.
The committee “shall, in consultation with the Director of Enforcement, recommend officers for appointment to the posts above the level of the Deputy Director of Enforcement and also recommend the extension or curtailment of the tenure of such officers in the Directorate of Enforcement”, the Act says.
While there are some front-runners for the job from the Indian Revenue Service (the traditional pool of service the ED draws from), the government could pull a surprise. For instance, former ED director Karnal Singh was a police officer. “No one knows who the government will appoint. CBDT chairperson Nitin Gupta and members Praveen Kumar, both IRS officers from the 1986 and 1987 batch, look like obvious choices. Then there is Rashmi Shukla who is currently chief of SSB. Shukla could also be kept in SSB and be given the Maharashtra DGP post when the incumbent retires or is reappointed. There is also one officer in contention from the AGMUT cadre. But these are just eligible candidates. The government may spring a surprise by bringing in a new name, as has happened in the past,” said a serving DG-rank officer in the Centre who asked not to be named.
Mishra’s last working day was decided by the Supreme Court on July 27, when it gave him a final extension. He took office on November 19, 2018 for a period of two years. He was given three extensions by the Centre, a move that was criticised by the Opposition and opposed by NGO Common Cause in court.
The people against whom ED has moved is a virtual who’s who of the opposition: Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi along with the former’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, former Delhi ministers Satyendar Jain and Manish Sisodia of the Aam Aadmi Party, members of Parliament Karti Chidambaram (Congress), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena-UBT) and Abhishek Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), to name just a few. The Opposition has accused ED of being politically motivated under Mishra’s tenure and said that the government extended his tenure (three times) from “ulterior political motives”. The government has denied this.
The government, many believe, is likely to parachute an officer from outside the agency because, Mishra’s deputies, the agency’s current special directors, are junior in comparison to the eligible candidates. Special director Rahul Navin is a 1993-batch IRS officer, and another special director Sonia Narang is an IPS officer of the 2002 batch.
Most director general or director rank officers in federal agencies today are officers from 1984-1989 batches. Mishra is from the 1984 batch (IRS). The current CBI chief Praveen Sood is from the 1986 batch (IPS) while NIA director general Dinkar Gupta is from the 1987 batch ( IPS). The CRPF, ITBP, and SSB chiefs are from 1988 batch (IPS) while the BSF DG is a 1989 batch officer (IPS).
However, ED isn’t the only organisation looking for a boss.
SPG, the elite security unit, which is responsible for security of the Prime Minister of India, is also headless after SPG director, Arun Kumar Sinha (1987 batch IPS), passed away at a Gurugram hospital on September 6. Sinha was the longest-serving chief of the SPG (2016-2023). The functioning of the agency is currently being supervised by Sinha’s deputy, Alok Sharma, a 1991 batch IPS officer. It is unclear if Sharma will continue to head the elite security force. He was already functioning as the chief when Sinha was on medical leave.
For the past two months, the post of Director General (Investigation) in the human rights body NHRC, too, has been vacant. The last DG (Investigation) Manoj Yadav was on July 19, 2023 appointed the chief of the Railway Protection Force (RPF). Yadav, who is also from the 1988 batch (IPS), was earlier the DGP of Haryana. DG NHRC is an important post because the Commission is mandated to investigate, suo motu, cases of human rights violation. Officials at NHRC said the government has always chosen police officers with experience of serving in state and the intelligence bureau as the DG of NHRC.
“Currently we do not have a director general. The work at the commission is currently being supervised by a DIG rank officer,” an official at the commission said.
Finally, for the last fortnight, CISF has been headed by Nina Singh (1989 batch IPS) who was given the additional charge of heading the force, after former DG Sheel Vardhan Singh retired on August 31. Officials in CISF said Singh could be made the full-time DG because the 1989 batch officer was already the No 2 in the force. With a strength of over 20,000, CISF provides security to airports across the country, Metro stations, and vital installations such as coal mines, and nuclear and power plants.