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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cop misled Maharashtra government for phone surveillance nod: Chief Secretary report

The information from the phone tap of several purported “agents” or “middlemen” formed the basis of the allegations of cash for transfers, made by then Commissioner Intelligence Rashmi Shukla in her report to then Director General of Police Subodh Jaiswal on August 25, 2020.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: March 26, 2021 8:23:47 am
Kunte says in his report to the CM that on receiving the report of Shukla’s investigation via Jaiswal, he brought it to the notice of the government on file. (File)

Two days after leaks from a 2020 “top secret” police report on the alleged corruption in transfers of IPS officers rocked the state, Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte has submitted a report to the Chief Minister stating that a high ranking police officer “deliberately misled” the government to obtain permission for phone surveillance to carry out a “roving” investigation against private individuals.

The information from the phone tap of several purported “agents” or “middlemen” formed the basis of the allegations of cash for transfers, made by then Commissioner Intelligence Rashmi Shukla in her report to then Director General of Police Subodh Jaiswal on August 25, 2020. Jaiswal forwarded the report to then Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sitaram Kunte for action.

The seven-page report by Shukla addressed to Jaiswal was a summary of conversations among persons whose phones were tapped, in which they are heard dropping names of several political leaders, including Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray among others.

The report also contained the names of several IPS and state cadre officers who, according to Shukla’s letter, were purportedly in touch with the persons placed under surveillance for allegedly fixing their transfers.

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said earlier this week that he was in possession of a pen drive with 6 GB of call recordings data that he would submit to the Union Home Secretary.

Kunte’s five-page report also said that under the Indian Telegraph Act, permission is given for phone surveillance to monitor threats to national security and public order, and thwart such threats on time.

Kunte, who had taken additional charge as ACS (Home) in July 2020, had authorised the phone surveillance at the time.

The report, a copy of which The Indian Express has seen, states that Shukla “sought permission for phone tapping of some persons, citing the possibility of endangering public order. Prima facie, it was found that she deliberately misled and took permission under the Indian Telegraph Act”, whose “provisions were misused for a different purpose than the original provisions”.

Kunte says in his report to the CM that on receiving the report of Shukla’s investigation via Jaiswal, he brought it to the notice of the government on file. “On this, an order was received from the government to seek an explanation to Rashmi Shukla for misleading and tapping the phone,” he said.

Kunte notes that after Shukla met him, the Home Minister and Chief Minister, she apologized for the incident and wished to withdraw the report.

“She also spoke about her family’s grief, her husband’s death from cancer and their children’s education. Admitting that she had made a mistake, she requested permission to withdraw the report. However, no action was taken as there was no precedent of withdrawing the report submitted to the government. No further steps were taken in the proposed action from the point of view of empathy and courtesy,” the report says.

On the call recordings purportedly handed over to the government in a pen drive along with the report of the investigation, Kunte says in his report that no pen drive was received.

“There was no pen drive with the report sent to the government by the Director-General of Police,” the report says.

It also says that Shukla’s report on the phone taps revealed names of the officers, threatened their privacy and made them infamous for no reason.

“The so-called decisions of the transfers mentioned in her report have no resemblance to the decisions actually taken by the government. Overall, these reports do not indicate any malpractice,” it remarked.

Kunte’s report says “no transfer of IPS officers was made during the period when Rashmi Shukla submitted the report after tapping the phones” and that in 2020, “all transfers have been made by the government on the basis of the recommendations of the Police Establishment Board with few exceptions. All the recommendations of the Board were unanimous”.

The report states that Shukla sought permission from the government under Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act to tap the phones of some private individuals stating that they could pose a threat to public order.

“A threat to public order is to act or plan to commit acts of terrorism or riots. However, on the basis of that permission, she tapped the phones of some of the private individuals whose conversations referred to the transfer of police officers. Based on that conversation, she submitted her report to the Director-General of Police,” it says.

Shukla’s report was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister as soon as it was received. The CM instructed that as it was a serious matter, it should be checked. Subsequently, on August 31, 2020, the report was submitted with remarks to the Chief Minister.

Kunte has reproduced in the report the remarks on the file: “no concrete evidence except so-called interception or CDR analysis”; “nature of enquiry seems to be roving”; “nothing concrete”; and that “in the absence of precise information, launching CID enquiry would be undesirable. It will likely lead to a witch-hunt and cause serious discontent among officers. No tangible result or salutary purpose will be achieved. As a matter of fact, as soon as such incident was noticed, it was the duty of the commissioner, SID and DGP to bring it to immediate notice of any of superior authorities, including ACS (home), CS, home minister, deputy chief minister and chief minister. it was not done to the best of my knowledge”.

Kunte’s report to the CM says that in a situation “it was not possible to link the conversations of private persons mentioned in Shukla’s report to transfer any IPS officer. Therefore, there was no need to take further action on it”.

The report also says that in 2020, between February 25 and October 28, transfers of 167 IPS officers took place. Of them, 13 IPS officers were transferred between February 25 and June 26, 2020. “All the other transfers except four were done after considering the recommendation of the Police Establishment Board-1,” it said.

It further said that no IPS officers were transferred between June 27 and September 1, 2020. The transfers of 154 IPS officers took place between September 2 and October 28, 2020. Of it, the transfers of 140 IPS officers were done as per recommendations of the PEB, changes in the posting of 10 IPS officers were made and four names were included, it added.

It also stated that the PEB is headed by Additional Chief Secretary, Director General of Police as its deputy chairman, Mumbai Police Commissioner, Director General of Anti Corruption Bureau, Additional Director General (Establishments) as its members.

Kunte’s report says that the leak of Shukla’s report earlier this week “seems prima facie … a copy from Shukla’s office. It is suspected that she may have leaked (it). The matter was leaked despite the fact that the letter was top-secret and it is a serious matter. If the suspicion is proved, she will be subject to severe action,” it noted.

 

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