Court rescues senior IPS officer from open political vendetta in Odisha

Prakash Mishra
Often, cases of corrupt and unscrupulous government officials who make disproportionate money make instant headlines. By comparison, there is less coverage of cases where honest and upright officers get unfairly targeted by political personalities and those in power. One such instance has recently come to my notice. It involves one of the most experienced and currently perhaps the senior-most IPS officer in the country, Prakash Mishra, presently Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Fortunately, the judiciary in this country is still largely fiercely independent and thus ensures that political vendetta does not ruin the reputation and careers of upright officers.

A blatantly false and malafide criminal case against Prakash Mishra filed by the Odisha Vigilance Department which directly works under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has quashed recently by the Orissa High Court, is a prime example of how political and personal biases can dictate State Government decisions.

The so-called case dates back to a period between 2006-2009 when Prakash Mishra, an IPS Officer of the 1977 batch was Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Odisha State Police Housing and Welfare Corporation (OSPH &WC). The State government instituted an inquiry into what it called an irregular purchase of cement and steel and payment of full amount to suppliers in advance. The State government alleged that Prakash Mishra and another officer had entered into a criminal conspiracy to derive pecuniary advantage. An FIR was registered in Bhubaneshwar in September 2014 against Mishra, five years after he had ceased to be the CMD of OSPH &WC!

Why did the State government wake up after almost half-a-decade? According to Mishra’s writ petition (based on which the High Court dismissed the case against him) the State government headed by Naveen Patnaik wasn’t very happy with his “strict and upright” way of functioning during his tenure as the Director General of Police in Odisha. Mishra, it must be noted here, went back to the state as DGP at the request of the State Government in 2012. During his tenure, the Odisha Police notched up several successes in their drive against the Maoists who were running amok in some districts of the state. But by December 2013 Mishra realised he was not in tune with the political discourse in the state and therefore asked to be sent back for Central deputation. Initially the State Government agreed to his request but subsequently withdrew its permission for Mishra to be sent to the Centre citing shortage of IPS officers in the state but betrayed its own bias against Mishra by posting him as CMD of Orissa State Transport Corporation which clearly is not under the police department!

When the Ministry of Home Affairs inquired about Mishra’s availability for central deputation in July 2014, the State Government said Mishra’s name has been removed from the list of officers eligible for Central deputation because there is a vigilance inquiry pending against him. Aware of the flimsy and obviously politically-motivated move against him, the Centre nevertheless brought Mishra back to Delhi and posted him as Special Secretary (Internal Security) before posting him as DG, CRPF.

Meanwhile, Prakash Mishra had also filed a writ petition in the Orissa High Court challenging the case against him. In a significant judgement quashing the FIR against Mishra, Justice SC Parija of the Orissa High Court has made some stinging observations against the Odisha Government.

One observation said: “It is not very uncommon in our country that honest and upright public servants with unimpeachable integrity and having impeccable track record are often hounded by the ruling political establishment for extraneous consideration. In the present case, what is more disturbing is that that the Director, Vigilance, to whom the file was marked by the Chief Minister for conducting an enquiry, has abdicated his duty and responsibility…the action or rather the wilful inaction of the Director, Vigilance, in not ensuring free, fair and proper enquiry into the matter and allowing the report of a sham enquiry to be accepted and giving his consent for seeking approval of the state government for registration of criminal case against the petitioners (Mishra and one more official) clearly shows that he was more concerned in exhibiting his loyalty to the ruling political establishment, akin to the old British adage of ‘more loyal than the King’.”

The Court said: “…The conclusion is irresistible that the allegations made in the impugned FIR and the materials available in the case diary…do not constitute or disclose commission of any cognisible offence and therefore, allowing continuance of the criminal proceeding against the present petitioners would be an abuse of the process of Court and result in serious miscarriage of justice…(therefore) all consequential criminal proceedings are hereby quashed.”

The Court’s harsh language is proof enough that the State government was acting out of personal prejudice and possibly even vendetta against one of the senior-most police officers in the country.