Officers under probe, suspicion hold sensitive posts in Customs, Central Excise

September 25, 2006

Officers under probe, suspicion hold sensitive posts in Customs, Central Excise

Officers under probe, suspicion hold sensitive posts in Customs, Central Excise

134 officers held sensitive posts in last 5 years
N Ganesh

Mumbai, September 23: Unlike other central government centers, officers of Customs and Central Excise seem to be a privileged lot. For, they are the officers, who even in the face of an inquiry or suspicion, are not necessarily sidelined to a non-sensitive posting.

Such officers in the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat (west zone) continue to hold their posts that are officially classified as ‘sensitive’. In the last five years as many as 134 officers of the Customs and Central Excise in the west zone have occupied such sensitive postings despite figuring in the Cloud List or Agreed List. (see box)
To cite a few instances, a superintendent in Mumbai was put on Cloud List (1997) after diamonds worth 16 crore were replaced with fake ones while in another instance another superintendent at Sahar Air Cargo Complex was caught red-handed while throwing bribe money from his cabin window, (1999). But they still continued to hold their sensitive posts.

But such cases go against guidelines laid down by the Central Vigilance Commission and instructions issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). The guidelines clearly state that an officer whose name figures in the Cloud or the Agreed List, should not hold sensitive posts. In the current year, the guidelines specify two groups who should not hold such posts—officers of the rank of Assistant Commissioner and above and those who belong to the rank of Appraisers, Superintendent of Customs or Superintendent of Central Excise.

It is the duty of the Vigilance Directorate, the watchdogs of the Customs and Central Excise, to monitor such cases.

However senior vigilance department officers said shortage of officers in the commissionerate and because the number of sensitive posts outnumbers the non-sensitive posts, are some of the reasons that have had to let to the catch 22 situation.

“The commissionerate gives less sensitive charges to officers (from Cloud or Agreed list) and moreover the senior officers are duly informed to monitor such officers,’’ said the highly placed officer.

Director General of Vigilance Joginder Singh whose comment was sought on this issue did not respond to numerous phone and fax queries.