Twenty-two days after Alok Verma was ousted as CBI chief, the Centre Saturday appointed Rishi Kumar Shukla, a 1983-batch IPS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, the agency’s new Director. Shukla was the Madhya Pradesh police chief until January when he was transferred by the Kamal Nath government as chairman of police housing.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) named Shukla even as Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress member in the Prime Minister-headed selection panel, sent a dissent note that S Javed Ahmed, a 1983-batch UP cadre officer, was more qualified for the post in line with Supreme Court guidelines and provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
Kharge said Shukla has no experience in investigating anti-corruption cases, which he felt should be the criterion to select the CBI chief.
The appointment, for a tenure of two years, comes a day after the Supreme Court Friday said it was “averse” to the arrangement of an interim CBI Director and the Centre should “immediately” appoint a regular Director. Shukla was due to retire in October 2020.
The new Director will take charge at a time when the agency has been facing an unprecedented crisis of credibility in the wake of a bitter feud between former Director Alok Verma and his then No. 2, Special Director Rakesh Asthana. The post remained vacant since January 10 after Verma was shunted out by the selection committee and M Nageswara Rao appointed as interim CBI chief.
From Gwalior, Shukla has served in various posts in Madhya Pradesh and almost ten years in the Intelligence Bureau. He, however, has no prior experience in the CBI. He was chosen from among five IPS officers whose names were approved for the Director’s post by the Select Committee headed by the Prime Minister.
As MP’s DGP, Shukla oversaw investigations into several rape cases of minors, which were not only investigated in record time but also trials completed within months. The state police under Shukla stood out for securing the death penalty for many of those accused in such cases.
He was replaced as DGP on January 29 and made Chairman of the State Police Housing Corporation, a post he had held previously. Incidentally, Shukla had gone on leave for six weeks in mid-October after the Assembly elections were announced. V K Singh who was made acting DGP by the Election Commission eventually replaced Shukla.
Shukla’s father-in-law also served as the state DGP in the 1990s.
Shukla’s first posting was in 1985 as additional SP in Raipur in then undivided MP. He also served as Additional DGP (Intelligence) for nearly three years between 2009 and 2012 and became DGP in June 2016.
“Thank you”, was all he said when reached for comment on being appointed the agency’s chief. In the wake of April 2 bandh last year over the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the violence between Dalits and upper castes that followed, particularly in the Gwalior-Chambal area, Shukla had been accused by both sides of being partial to the other side.
While addressing a seminar on sensitising police officers handling cases under the Atrocities Act in Bhopal in July last year, Shukla had made controversial remarks against the judiciary saying judges had started interpreting laws according to their wishes. Describing the times as challenging, he had said that the judiciary’s biases and prejudices were reflected in the legal procedures. Describing the comments as objectionable, the High Court Bar Association had sought action against him for contempt of court.
“He is decent to a fault but firm in action,” a senior officer told The Indian Express recalling how he withstood pressure from the government after an RSS pracharak was arrested and beaten up by police in Baihar in Balaghat district in September 2016. The RSS wanted police officers arrested for dragging the pracharak to the police station from the organisation’s local office in Baihar town over an alleged inflammatory post. While a counter case was registered against police officers in the same police station none were arrested. However, many officers, including the Range IGP, were transferred after the incident, the in-charge of the police station eventually demoted and an SIT formed to defuse the situation.