STATE TIMES NEWSJAMMU: But for a court case on the seniority dispute, Davinder Singh would have become Superintendent of Police with effect from the year 2014. The officer from the terrorism-infested Tral area of Pulwama district, who joined the Jammu and Kashmir Police as Sub Inspector in 1990, if held guilty, would now lose his service as Deputy SP. He had three more years of his active service when he was trapped alongwith a top-ranking Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist and two of his associates in a car on Srinagar-Jammu highway on January 11. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has taken over the investigation, shifted the detainees from Srinagar to Jammu and obtained remand of 15 days for Singh’s custodial interrogation, is now sifting through links and records to find as to how old was this Police officer’s liaison with the terrorists. Apparently, there are no takers to the wild theory that Singh was operating a “game” on behalf of a Central agency when he was ambushed by a Police party near Wanpoh between Anantnag and Qazigund.
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If well-placed sources in J&K Police are to be believed, Singh was under the radar of the Shopian District Police since last year. Hizbul Mujahideen’s shadow operational chief Syed Naveed Mushtaq and a Shopian-based lawyer, who had frequently visited Pakistan in the last few years, were also separately under surveillance. As soon as SP Shopian, Sandeep Choudhary, IPS-2012, learned through a source communication that Singh, Naveed and the lawyer, alongwith one more local terrorist, had set off for Jammu from the Dy SP’s house in Srinagar, he informed IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, IPS-1997. Kumar, who had joined as IGP Kashmir just on 30 December, 2018, lost no time to pass on the tip off to DIG South Kashmir, Atul Kumar Goel, IPS-2004, with the instruction that the vehicle must be intercepted and seized and everybody in it must be taken into custody. The operation was kept secret to the extent that even the SP of Kulgam, in whose jurisdiction the vehicle was intercepted, was not kept in the loop.
SSP Anantnag, Altaf Khan, maintained surveillance over the car in his jurisdiction till it was finally stopped near Wanpoh. Even as the officers are tight-lipped and under instruction to avoid any questions and details on it “from anybody”, STATE TIMES has learned that at least one weapon was seized from the car and subsequently three more weapons from Singh’s residence in Srinagar.
Goel has had a limited visibility on the counterinsurgency front but, during his tenure with NIA, he has dealt with important terror-related cases. He has previously functioned as DIG North Kashmir, SSP Jammu and SP City (South) in Srinagar. According to sources in Civil Secretariat, he has been a no-nonsense officer “who doesn’t care a bit about his own career”.
Before achieving eligibility in the year 2009, Goel, while being posted as SP South in Srinagar, applied for two years of study leave as he wanted to pursue a degree at the prestigious John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, in Massachusetts, USA.
The J&K Police Headquarters vide a letter dated April 23, 2009, mentioning that Goel had not completed the requisite length of service for grant of study leave under All India Services (Study Leave) Regulations, 1960, forwarded his request to Home Department that the leave be granted in relaxation of rules. Home Department rejected his application and conveyed to PHQ that the officer was not entitled to study leave of two years.
Meanwhile, Goel got earned leave of 45 days sanctioned from PHQ with the permission to leave the station. Risking his entire career, he didn’t return before completing his course at Harvard Kennedy School. After absence of 726 days, he joined back at PHQ on 28 June 2011 with the submission that his period of unauthorised absence may be condoned.
While the officer was sent on the Central deputation to NIA, Government ordered an enquiry by then Additional DGP Security V.K. Singh. The Article of Charges said that Goel had “flagrantly violated the provisions of the All India Services (Study Leave) Regulations, 1960, the All India Services (Leave) Rules, 1955, exhibited conduct which is unbecoming of a senior police officer, lack of devotion to duty for which he is liable for disciplinary action in terms of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969) and the all India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968”.
VK Singh completed the enquiry and submitted his report vide communication No. SHQ/PS/Enq/AKG/16/1412 dated 21.01.20 16 with the finding that Goel had “flagrantly violated the provisions of the All India Services (Study Leave) Regulations, 1960, exhibited conduct which is unbecoming of a senior Police 0fficer, lack of devotion to duty for which he is liable for disciplinary action in terms of All India Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1963”.
However, the Inquiry Officer recommended a lenient view with the observation that “Rules notwithstanding, the knowledge and the work-related skills acquired by the officer at prestigious institution like John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA would empower the officer in the discharge of his duties”.
He recorded: “The officer was in the formative stage of his career. There is no doubt that the reputation and dedication of the officer, barring this instance, has been of high order and he has been entrusted with challenging responsibilities both by the Government of J&K and the Government of India”.
Governor N.N. Vohra’s Government in January 2016 accepted VK Singh’s enquiry report and the resultant recommendation from PHQ. With that, Goel’s period of unauthorised absence was condoned and he was treated on leave with no penalty.
“Very few IAS and IPS officers exhibit such courage in pursuit of their studies”, said an officer. He claimed that there was no truth in the media reports suggesting Singh was “an asset of the Indian deep state, working over a Central agency’s game”. “Had it been so, he wouldn’t have been arrested”, said the officer claiming that there was “perfect coordination” between the J&K Police, security forces and the Central agencies. He said that NIA would conduct the investigation with full professional excellence and without interference from any quarter.
IGP Vijay Kumar enjoys the reputation of an IPS officer who has been on the forefront of counterterror operations in Kashmir since the day of joining his service. To begin with, he worked as SDPO and head of SOG and SP in South Kashmir’s terrorist-infested Pulwama and Awantipora Police districts. Later he put in another term as SSP of Kulgam.
Kumar has hundreds of operations and encounters to his credit. Before his repatriation from a Central deputation last year, he served as DIG and IGP Cobra in CRPF. Since his joining as IGP Kashmir, Police and security forces have neutralised 15 most wanted terrorists.
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