The recent empanelling of IRS officer Rahul Navin as the interim chief of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and conferring upon him the additional secretary rank was not merely anticipated but deemed inevitable, according to several senior babus. Mr Navin assumed the role in September 2023, succeeding S.K. Mishra, following a pattern where the position is often temporarily elevated to the rank and pay of secretary.
This move is seen by some as a potential signal from the Centre to regularise Mr Navin as the full-fledged director of the ED. The Central probe agency, responsible for investigating financial crimes under key legislations, is witnessing a strategic transition in leadership. Certainly, its role has gained prominence in recent times as the Modi Sarkar.
There has been a five-fold increase in the number of cases registered by ED since 2014, especially after 2019. The Opposition parties often accuse the BJP government of misusing Central agencies, especially ED, to target Opposition leaders. And now, flush from the poll victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the ED is widely expected to continue its investigations with even greater vigour.
As Mr Navin takes charge, the agency’s future operational continuity will be followed with great interest. The development underscores the intersection of bureaucratic reshuffles, specialised financial investigations and the leadership required of the agency.
Karnataka HC calls for clarity on cadre promotions
A recent directive from the Karnataka high court requires the state government to outline guidelines for appointing lower cadre individuals to higher cadre positions. Against the backdrop of a legal dispute between two Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) officers, the court order sheds light on the intricate dynamics of cadre promotions.
The petitioner, Prajna Ammembala, challenged a transfer order placing her in the role of additional director in the department of food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, Bengaluru, a post traditionally reserved for an IAS cadre officer or, in their absence, a KAS officer in the super-time scale. However, the incumbent babu, Potharaju, challenged the transfer, citing its premature nature and the lack of chief ministerial approval.
The Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal (KSAT) ruled in favour of Potharaju, but now this recent directive of the high court stresses the importance of scrutinising the eligibility of both officers and questions Potharaju’s standing to contest the appointment.
Observers have noted that the court’s nuanced interpretation broadens the definition of promotion beyond mere pay scale and rank elevation, and encompasses the significance of advancements in honour, dignity and grade.
The court has instructed Ammembala to assume her responsibilities as additional director contingent on the state government, under newly appointed chief secretary Rajneesh Goel, considering eligible candidates for the position.
Babus not brand ambassadors
The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has taken a stance regarding a practice that is widely observed — the cooperation between successful UPSC candidates and coaching classes. Sources have informed DKB that the CCPA views these arrangements as deceptive and in violation of fair trade practices.
The matter concerns the use of UPSC toppers’ images by coaching institutes in their advertisements, which the CCPA claims fall under the definition of “misleading advertisement” and “unfair trade practices”, as specified in the Consumer Protection Act of 2019.
The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, should be enforced, the CCPA reportedly wrote to the department of personnel and training (DoPT), which is the controlling authority for officers chosen through the UPSC examination. This recommendation applies to all candidates who are still featured in advertisements for coaching classes, essentially serving as their brand ambassadors throughout the year.
Following the decision, the CCPA has reportedly taken decisive action by issuing notices to 20 prominent IAS coaching institutes. The institutes, in turn, are arguing that the successful candidates were part of the interview guidance programme and not the more expensive foundation courses.
This crackdown by the CCPA reflects a growing concern about the ethics of such advertising practices. Many UPSC candidates heavily rely on these coaching institutes for guidance in their pursuit of a career in the civil service. It has prompted a larger conversation about the responsibilities of both coaching institutes and UPSC toppers in pursuit of creating a level playing field.