Exclusive: J&K DGP Warns IPS Rath on ‘Illegal, Unbecoming Conduct’
As controversy spirals over the style of functioning of a senior Indian Police Service officer, Director General of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Shesh Paul Vaid has warned Inspector General (Traffic), Basant Rath, ‘against violation of the service conduct rules, operating without uniform, hurling abuses, and manhandling commuters.’
In an official communication – dated 22 February – accessed by The Quint, DGP Vaid has cautioned IGP Traffic that “action under law” would be initiated against him if he did not desist from violating the service conduct rules on the streets.
A number of videos, posts and pictures are being circulated on social media, in which you are seen moving in civvies on the roads, doing strange activities unwarranted of a police officer. Other videos uploaded by some commuters allege manhandling, using of abusive language and damage to their property like cell phones, helmets, spectacles and vehicles.DGP Vaid, in the letter received by the office of Basant Rath, IGP Traffic, on 22 February
‘Illegal Conduct, Unbecoming of a Police Officer’
“These are not only illegal, they are unbecoming of a Police Officer and also utter violation of All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, Rule 3 Section 1(vi), Rule 3 Section 2A and Rule 3 Section 2B (x),” the DGP added in the letter.
“The J&K Motor Vehicle Act 1988 clearly states that no officer shall do any checking of any vehicle without proper uniform. These acts of yours are bringing disrepute and bad name to the Police Organization,” he added.
DGP Vaid goes on to warn the IPS officer:
‘You are hereby advised and warned to refrain from such acts in future. You shall always remain in proper uniform while discharging official duties as mandated in law and Police Rules. Any violation to these directions shall be viewed seriously and action under law shall be initiated against you.’
Multiple Complaints About Rath’s Behaviour From Senior J&K Police
The Quint has learned that over a dozen senior IPS officers have either met or written to the top government functionaries in the last ten days and complained to them, that one of their colleagues’ behaviour and style of functioning was bringing a “bad name” to the whole police force, and tarnishing the image of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.
These officers are understood to have approached, among others, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Secretary Bharat Bhushan Vyas, Principal Secretary Home Raj Kumar Goyal, besides the DGP.
In his letter No: CID/SML/SR/2018/124 dated 15 February, ADG CID has informed DGP that IGP Traffic Basant Rath was “increasingly” posting content regarding day-to-day functioning, and plans as a supervisory officer of traffic police in Jammu and Kashmir, on his Facebook and Twitter handle.
He makes specific references to some of Mr Rath’s controversial posts including this:
The ADG CID has complained that some of the posts floated by the officer seemed to attract criticism for being obscene and derogatory are as under. He has quoted Rath’s tweets like this:
From Embarrassment to Worship: Divided Reactions to Rath
Notwithstanding tell-tale signs of embarrassment in the top corridors of power, IPS and IAS cadre, politicians, and civil society are divided over Mr Rath’s actions and ways of working. Many of his posts on Twitter and Facebook have been widely appreciated, first in Jammu, and now in Kashmir.
They are least disturbed over the officer’s “abusive language” or thrashing of the drivers without helmet or seat-belt.
Even some of the senior IPS officers are known to be at his back.
Former IGP Jammu, and author of an English novel, Danesh Rana, has warmly posted in Rath’s praise on Facebook:
Cyclones often hit Orissa. J&K has been hit by an Oriyan cyclone called Basant Rath. Cyclones uproot trees, Basant is planting seeds of traffic management and discipline and fear of law. I have handled traffic as SSP and DIG but could not bring a revolution. (Doff my hat to Basant Rath). Kudos. Love you tiger.Danesh Rana, Former IGP, Jammu, in a post on Rath’s Facebook timeline
‘Rath’s Posting Backed by BJP’
Rath, in his social media posts, repeatedly describes current IGP Jammu SDS Jamwal as his hero and mentor. The corridors of power are abuzz with whispers that Mr Rath’s posting as IGP Traffic, earlier this month, was the result of a sustained campaign.
A campaign in which BJP leader and Minister of State for Transport Sunil Sharma, one IGP, and the Chief Minister’s brother and Minister of Tourism Tassaduq Mufti, played a key role.
Sources close to the senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister insist that Mr Nirmal Singh was not “very proactive” in promoting Rath as IGP Traffic.
Indian Administrative Service officer and Managing Director J&K State Power Development Corporation, Dr Shah Faesal, is equally impressed by Rath’s style of functioning.
On 19 February, he posted on Facebook and got hundreds of likes and positive comments: “It’s Monday morning but Amphala Chowk (Jammu) is traffic free. Basant Rath works!”
‘Rath’s “Exhibitionism” Will Change Nothing’
However, as many as nine of the twelve IPS and IAS officers, who spoke to The Quint, sounded pessimistic and they invariably claimed that Rath’s “exhibitionism” would change nothing in the system.
Not permitted to speak to the media, they insisted they remain anonymous. According to them, dozens of IPS and IAS officers were pouring their sweat and blood into the services and bringing about “a revolution of change” silently.
“Look at his own batch-mate Swayam Prakash Pani (currently IGP Kashmir) who is also from Odisha. He has hundreds of successful counter-terror operations and investigations to his credit. He has a glittering contribution to his credit wherever he worked from J&K Police to the NIA. He has never been hungry for the camera, and doesn’t attract crowds to stage a drama on the streets to falsely impress people. He has shown the utmost respect for service conduct rules, without a single breach. He has never courted a controversy in the past 17 years”, said one of the senior police officers.
“If today, he is Tassaduq Mufti’s choice for this post, in 2009 he was Omar Abdullah’s and Devender Rana’s choice for SSP Jammu. This patronage from the top matters,” the officer asserted.
“It’s nothing but another ‘elite versus underdog’ story. Not even PDP versus BJP. No dispute over his articles and freedom of expression. It’s simply an issue of a well-connected officer refusing to respect service conduct rules and humiliating everybody including his own colleagues”, said the officer with reference to Rath’s note on Facebook to a Commanding Officer of State Disaster Response Force.
Everybody knows that helmets and seat-belts are not the only violations in traffic. Most violations are done by drivers of the big fleets of trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles belonging to extremely powerful and well-connected transport mafia, operating on the highway from Lakhanpur to Baramulla and Leh. How many of their vehicles has he fined and challaned? None, I claim.Another officer, speaking on condition of anonymity
Why SHOs Haven’t Registered FIRs
One of the officers said that Rath had written about 20 notes, asking SHOs in Jammu to seize certain vehicles, remove some roadblocks, and file FIRs.
Basant Rath has written over a dozen such letters to SHOs in Jammu in last two weeks, asking them to file FIRs against the people who according to him have violated various traffic rules.
On the other hand, police stations have received around two dozen complaints in which owners, drivers, and pillion riders have alleged that IGP Traffic thrashed them on streets, damaged their vehicles, smashed their cell phone and took away their purses, with I-cards, ATM cards, even cash. Not a single FIR has been registered till date.
“Rath Sahab has rushed to residences of some powerful people, including an IGP, and sought their apologies and withdrawn notes against them. On the other side, SHOs are under instructions of not filing any FIRs against the IPS officer. We have heard that an association of the young lawyers is now approaching High Court,” said the officer.
Seeking apologies has been as common as creating scenes for Mr Rath.
SSP approached the High Court but Justice JP refused to quash the investigation and criminal proceedings against him. Rath drove straight to the sportsman’s home and made him withdraw his complaint with an apology.
Profusion of Controversies
Rath was removed as Additional SP Baramulla, when 8 PDP workers got killed and over 50 (including Ministers Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Ghulam Hassan Mir) injured in a grenade attack at PDP President Mehbooba Mufti’s rally at Uri, Kashmir, on 8 April 2004. Ms Mufti had a narrow escape.
Allegations of the killing of a criminal in a fake encounter sprang up during Rath’s brief tenure as SSP Jammu. Rakesh Kumar alias Giri of RS Pura was shot dead by a police party, in an ambush near Satyam Resorts in Trikuta Nagar, Jammu on 21 November 2010.
Police claimed that Nagar Singh, a murder under-trial and top businessman, had paid supari to Giri and some others to eliminate a National Conference leader and a witness in the case against him. Thereafter, Rath was appointed as SSP in State Vigilance Organisation.
Months later, when a video clip appeared on Youtube, showing Rath holding the under-trial Nagar Singh under his boots and subjecting him to interrogation, the Government ordered his attachment as SSP Vigilance on 24 November 2011.
(The Quint, in association with BitGiving, has launched a crowdfunding campaign for an 8-month-old who was raped in Delhi on 28 January 2018. The baby girl, who we will refer to as 'Chhutki', was allegedly raped by her 28-year-old cousin when her parents were away. She has been discharged from AIIMS hospital after undergoing three surgeries, but needs more medical treatment in order to heal completely. Her parents hail from a low-income group and have stopped going to work so that they can take care of the baby. You can help cover Chhutki's medical expenses and secure her future. Every little bit counts. Click here to donate.)