Former CBI Director RK Raghavan thinks Tamil Nadu IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram has been caught in the crossfire between the Central and Tamil Nadu governments. But she is competent, hardworking and is “right material” to become CBI Director, he told Business Line in an interview. Excerpts.

Do you think Archana Ramasundaram did the right thing, or was she ill advised, in taking up her new posting without getting her relieving order from the Tamil Nadu government, which had been dragging its feet over this issue for three months?

This was a tricky situation. In hindsight, one might say she acted rashly. But then, what options did she really have, when the Government was unrelenting, and it looked as if the golden opportunity to head the country’s highest investigation agency was likely to elude her. She took a calculated risk. She may not however regret her decision. Also no permanent harm can come by her.

How far do you see political overtones in this issue? The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has for some years been taking a strident opposing view of many things the Centre does. Do you think this officer is caught in the crossfire between TN and the Centre?

There are only shades of politics here. The real point is most of the States don’t like to be dictated to by an overbearing Centre, and TN relations with Delhi, whichever government is in position in Chennai, have always been dicey. Whatever be the case, Archana is caught in the crossfire.

On the recent provision that the Centre can suo motu take an officer on deputation from the States even without the State Governments’ concurrence, you’ve said “technically” speaking the Centre was right to ask Archana Ramasundaram to take her post. Did you mean or infer that propriety demanded otherwise?

Yes. The Centre has, during the past few years, armed itself with the power to indent an All India Service officer serving in the State without the latter‘s concurrence. But propriety demands that no officer is so grabbed and taken away without obtaining the State’s consent.

The TN Government has put a brake on senior officers moving to the Centre for taking up appointments there. Is this the right approach? Will it not demoralise TN cadre IAS or IPS officers because this might affect their career growth?

Many States are averse to losing good officers to the Centre. TN is no exception. However, one must remember that not many actually want to shift base to the Centre. This is because there are more perks while serving the State than in Delhi.

You have said in past articles that you know Archana as a competent officer? Did she work under you; how closely have you followed her work?

She has worked for me both in the State Police and at the CBI. I found her knowledgeable and extremely hardworking. More than these, she was wiling to take responsibility for her decisions.

You’ve already written in different forums saying you find the manner of her appointment, which is now before the Supreme Court, to be proper. Do you think Archana has the right skills, mental make up etc required to become CBI Director in the near future, which in today’s India means walking through a minefield?

She is mentally very strong and is also knowledgeable in investigative procedures, and therefore the right material to head the CBI.

Do you think the State government is being vindictive in this case after giving her the consent to apply for the post? After all she is the first woman to become Additional Director, CBI. Shouldn’t TN be proud of this instead of punishing her? Even more so if she goes on to become CBI Director?

I cannot answer.

If you go strictly by the rule book, how do you see the outcome of this case, even though Supreme Court ruling is yet to come?

I cannot conjecture.

During your tenure as CBI director surely you must have faced such tricky issues; how were these handled or resolved?

I can only say that one or two officers in some States with a dubious reputation tried to come into the CBI. I am happy I stood my ground and kept them out. At the same time I must admit I could not also bring in a few good officers whom I wanted, because certain forces within the organisation felt threatened and resisted fresh induction.

Any comments on how the new government should free the CBI from such political tussles in the future?

You cannot legislate for this. Only cordial relations between the State and Centre can avert the spat like the one we are now witnessing.

If the officer loses the battle and is made to return to TN to face suspension and inquiry, isn’t her career over; what message would go to young officers? Would TN remain a popular cadre choice, provided it already is?

If the Centre has any concern for officer morale it should not return Archana to the State. It should accommodate her in some Central Police organisation if her posting to the CBI is struck down by the apex court. She has only four years to go before retirement and can stay at the Centre.

Is the IPS still heavily male dominant? Is it difficult for a woman to make a mark; what is the gender ratio?

I presume about 10 per cent of the IPS is female. But we should not push this up through a quota. We have enough talented lady candidates who will make it to the IPS in their own right.