'Efforts Being Made to Discredit Me': IAS Officer Who Resigned Over Kashmir Restrictions

After old charges of misconduct against him surfaced again, Kannan Gopinathan said it was an attempt to set a ‘convenient narrative’ about his 'principled decision' to resign.

New Delhi: Kannan Gopinathan, an Indian Administrative Service officer from Kerala who recently resigned over the ‘Emergency’ imposed on Jammu and Kashmir after the Narendra Modi government revoked the state’s special status under Article 370, is in the headlines again over old charges of misconduct against him. Gopinathan is a 2012-batch officer of the AGMUT cadre and a memo was issued to him on July 8 this year over “various acts of omission and commission which constitute misconduct” under AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968.

Gopinathan has called the charges frivolous and says old issues are being raked up again to set a ‘convenient narrative’ about his ‘principled decision’ to resign from the service. He says he had already responded to the show cause notice on allegations involving insubordination, adoption of dilatory tactics and dereliction of duty.

“Counter-narratives need to be set to discredit me. I will now be subjected to ad hominem attacks,” he told The Wire.

Dismissing claims that the fear of disciplinary action was the real reason for his resignation, he said that IAS officers often receive such memos, but don’t resign because of them. “I responded to all the allegations and was assigned additional charges over my responsibilities on August 5,” he said. The Wire has a copy of the August 5 order from the Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli administrator assigning additional charges to Gopinathan.

“I don’t believe they want to personally attack me. Everyone wants a convenient and relatable narrative, so there are efforts to discredit me. An IAS officer resigning over a principle may be difficult to believe and thus a more convenient narrative is being set to rationalise and justify this development to the people,” he said.

Also Read: ‘This is Not the 1970s’: IAS Officer Quits in Anguish Over Kashmir ‘Emergency’

The memorandum filed by the UT administrator to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a copy of which was accessed by The Wire, mentions delays in submitting files and reports, not following the prescribed reporting channel and other such issues.

Gopinathan’s visit to Kerala during the floods last year to see how the UT could help the victims has also been mentioned. His failure to file a report on his return from the tour has been raised as an issue. In addition to these, the fact that he did not apply for the prime minister’s award under various categories for innovations in public administration has been listed.

Detailed response to the memo

In his detailed response to the memo, a copy of which is with The Wire, Gopinathan has “outrightly” refuted all the charges. “I have been performing my duties diligently and to the best of my abilities. That I have been honest and committed to my duties is borne by the fact that Hon’ble Administrator gave 9.95 out of 10.0 on 24 Dec 2018 for my Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR) of 2017-2018. The same was accepted by respected Union Home Secretary as the accepting authority. I remain grateful for this honest appreciation,” his response read.

On the failure to file a report after returning from Kerala, he said that he met with the administrator upon his return and it was discussed that his suggestion of adopting a village at this stage “might neither be desirable nor feasible for the UT and accordingly that the report need not be submitted”.

On the charge of not applying for the PM’s award, he told The Wire that he believes nobody should be forced to apply for awards. “Even then, I did apply when explicit directions came,” he said.

Kannan Gopinathan is second from the right in this file photo from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silvassa in January 2019. Credit: Kannan Swaminathan’s Facebook page

‘Emergency-like measures’

Gopinathan says he decided to resign not because of the reading down of special provisions for Jammu and Kashmir, as it was not appropriate for him to comment on the government’s decision as a bureaucrat, but because of the restrictions on free speech imposed through “Emergency-like measures”.

“An elected government is free to take decisions it deems necessary; a bureaucrat is nobody to comment on that. However, it is also the democratic and constitutional right of the people to react and express their views on the decisions,” Gopinathan told The Wire. He fears that peoples’ belief in democracy is at stake.

“I believe the right to life exists with the right to liberty. Locking up people and telling them it’s for their own good is difficult to justify,” he said. Citing the example of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, he said it bothered him that the Indian government wasn’t allowing free expression and dissent.

Before joining the civil services, Gopinathan worked in the private sector in NOIDA. He says his motivation to become an IAS officer came from his dedication to social service. He claims he used to teach children in a jhuggi (slum) while holding a private job. “I joined the IAS to serve the people on a large scale, which I got to do. I could have done a lot in my 27 remaining years of service, but the need to raise my voice weighed heavier than the need to be in service for 27 more years,” he told The Wire.

“I know I will regret it as I would have been able to work for so many people, for much longer. But if I hadn’t done this now, I would regret it for all the 27 remaining years of service. There are very few people speaking for the freedoms of people in that state,” he added.

Gopinathan says he hasn’t thought of any concrete plans for the future yet. “I’ll have to work somewhere to earn a living. The exposure I got from my resignation is enough for me to connect with more people and keep working for them,” he said.