In an unprecedented move, the central government has removed senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Vineet Agarwal on Tuesday from the post of special director at the Enforcement Directorate (ED) with immediate effect.
The finance ministry issued an order on Tuesday after getting sanction from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet and subsequently the ED headquarters in Delhi issued the orders relieving Agarwal from the post of special director of the agency in Mumbai.
An ED special director, based in Mumbai, heads the western region of the agency and has control over Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. The charge has now been handed over in an ‘additional capacity’ to the agency’s special director based in Chennai.
Agarwal’s tenure in the ED has been cut short by three years and the 1994-batch IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre has been repatriated to his home state. He has served over two years in the enforcement agency. Agarwal was sent on deputation to the ED in January 2017 for five years by the central government.
His name cropped up on March 29 after he issued an order relieving his joint director in Mumbai, Satyabrat Kumar, from the Nirav Modi case probe when the court hearing in the extradition case of the absconding diamantaire was under way in London.
As a controversy erupted in the sensitive case, being monitored at the top levels of the government, ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra issued a fresh order in Delhi and cancelled Agarwal’s signed order, within a few hours.
When Business Standard contacted Agarwal, he said he is not aware about the development and has not yet received the repatriation order.
Sources say his removal from the position was due to his interference in the Nirav case, which is being specifically monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office. Besides, his decision of transferring a joint director is not within his purview.
A special director is only empowered to transfer or alter the charge of an official up to the level of an assistant director, according to rules. A joint director post is one above the assistant director and only the ED director is empowered to transfer such an official.
ED director is learnt to have sought a written explanation from Agarwal over passing the order in haste while the officer concerned was in London for Nirav’s bail hearing. Nirav, who fled India after having allegedly defrauded the state-owned Punjab National Bank of ~13,000 crore, was arrested in the UK last month.