Updated: March 28, 2021 12:14:17 am
SUSPENDED FROM the forest department for now, Deputy Conservator of Forest Vinod Shivkumar, arrested for abetting the suicide of Harisal range forest officer Deepali Chavan, was remanded in police custody till March 29.
Shivkumar was presented before a local court in Dharni, the tehsil headquarters of Melghat amid protests, including by some forest department staffers as well, on Saturday. The court granted two-day custody for Shivkumar.
Protesters demanded that Shivkumar should be taken from the police station to the court on foot, but police whisked him away in a vehicle.
Chavan had shot herself in the chest with her service pistol at her official residence in Harisal on Thursday evening. Police also recovered a note in which Shivkumar has been accused of harassing her in official work, threatening to chargesheet her and sending her to jail. The note also accused him of abusing her and stated that he was responsible for her taking the extreme step.
Police arrested Shivkumar from Nagpur railway station on Friday. Melghat Tiger Reserve Field Director Srinivas Reddy has written a letter to head of forest force (HoFF), citing several instances of being helpful towards Chavan from time to time and terming his sudden transfer as “violation of principles of natural justice”.
In the letter, Reddy said the note contained words of praise for him, and that Chavan respected him and felt safe in his company. Reddy has also pointed out that the note even thanked him for her transfer from Dhulghat forest range to Harisal despite an inquiry against her in a MNREGS payment case. Reddy also noted that he had saved her from being arrested in the matter as well as in another case during an anti-encroachment drive. “In both instances, Chavan thanked me with happiness,” Reddy has said, attaching copies of WhatsApp exchanges with her.
Reddy has also listed sanctions of her leave applications over the past two years, in which he has pointed out 35 days of leave in 2019, 20 in 2020 and five in 2021.
He has said she had orally complained against Shivkumar’s conduct, following which he had admonished him and asked him to behave.
“All these things were not taken into consideration and I was transferred on Friday, which is against the principles of natural justice,” Reddy has said, adding, “I request you to reconsider the decision and give me justice.”
Authorities and Chavan’s family have clarified that she was not pregnant at the time of her death. A section of media reported that she was five months’ pregnant when she shot herself on Thursday.
Special Inspector General of Police C K Mina and Civil Surgeon Shyamsundar Nikam told The Indian Express that the reports about her pregnancy were incorrect. Chavan’s husband Rajesh Mohite also confirmed that she was not pregnant.
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