A number of senior MHA officials, including 15 joint secretaries, on Tuesday met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and urged him to reconsider the decision to suspend senior IAS officer G K Dwivedi for renewal of FCRA licence of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO.
They conveyed to the Home Minister that Dwivedi, who was serving as Joint Secretary (Foreigners) in the Home Ministry, has been “wrongly punished” for the alleged lapses of his juniors, who reportedly facilitated the renewal of FCRA licence of Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
Sources said the officials told the minister that such action against a senior officer, who was handling several key projects of the Modi government, would send “wrong signal” and will have "demoralising" effect on the bureaucracy.
The Home Minister assured the joint secretaries that he will look into the matter, the sources said. Dwivedi also separately met the Home Minister to plead his case.
Dwivedi, along with three of his junior officers, was suspended last week after the government found that the FCRA licence of an NGO run by Naik was renewed by the Home Ministry’s Foreigners Division headed by him (Dwivedi) despite several probes against Naik for allegedly radicalising youths and attracting them towards extremism.
Rajnath was said to be displeased after the mandatory FCRA licence of IRF was renewed by the Foreigners Cell of the Home Ministry.
Ministry sources said the online route for the issuance of licences was utilised by the NGO on August 19 even as a probe was on against Naik.
Naik's Peace TV and his speeches have come under the scanner of the central security agencies for allegedly propagating radical views, especially in the aftermath of the July 1 Dhaka terror siege that left 22 people dead.
The move by the joint secretaries is seen as unprecedented as there has been no such happening when the bureaucrats joined hands to stand by one of their colleagues, who faced disciplinary action by the government.
On Saturday, four joint secretaries had met Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi with the same demand. “It is demoralising for honest officers. I feel injustice has been done to Mr Dwivedi. We have conveyed our feelings,” Joint Secretary (Police-I) in the Home Ministry Kumar Alok, who was one of the four officers, had said when asked whether he had met the Union Home Secretary to plead Dwivedi’s case.
Sources said suspended IAS officer Dwivedi has been working on a number of pet projects of the Narendra Modi government, offering long-term visas and citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
He also worked on the merger of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card scheme with the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card scheme.
Earlier in the day, former Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai backed four Home Ministry officials suspended over the FCRA licence to Naik's NGO.
"I don't know the details of the case but the suspension is not called for. Such actions generally demoralise people," Pillai told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on border security here.
He said if such actions are taken, the bureaucracy will stop taking any decisions.
Pillai admitted that Naik's is a high-profile case but went onto add: "From my experience, I can state that the Home Secretary should be in a position to defend his officials in such cases."