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SC stays Centre’s decision to dismiss Gujarat cadre IPS officer who probed Ishrat Jahan’s encounter

Based on his report, the SIT had held that the encounter was “fake”. The Gujarat High Court subsequently entrusted the investigation of the case to the CBI.

Satish Chandra Verma

PROVIDING INTERIM relief to IPS officer Satish Chandra Verma, who was dismissed from service a month before his retirement, the Supreme Court on Monday granted a week’s stay on the dismissal order.

The court made it clear that after a week, it will be up to the Delhi High Court to decide whether or not to continue with the stay. The bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy allowed Verma to make suitable changes to his petition pending before the Delhi HC challenging the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Union Home Ministry in 2016.

Verma, a 1986-batch IPS officer who has had several run-ins with the Gujarat government and the Centre, was due to retire at the end of this month. Last posted as IGP at the CRPF Training College in Coimbatore, Verma had assisted the Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the Gujarat High Court to probe the 2004 Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case.

Based on his report, the SIT had held that the encounter was “fake”. The Gujarat High Court subsequently entrusted the investigation of the case to the CBI.

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Verma was dismissed from service on August 30, a month before his superannuation, on several counts including speaking to the media “unauthorisedly” in 2016 on the Ishrat Jahan case and interrogation of R V S Mani, former Under Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In July 2016, months after an interview to The Indian Express in which he called the Ishrat Jahan killing a “premeditated murder”, Verma, then Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), was removed from the post.

In December 2016, The Indian Express also published details of a report by Verma that included charges of an “elaborate conspiracy”, allegedly involving a relative of the then Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, contractors, NEEPCO officials and local officials, in the construction of two dams for the 600-MW Kameng Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh.

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In that report, Verma had alleged that highly inflated bills were submitted to defraud the PSU and the government of funds. Rijiju and the Power Ministry denied the charges.

In September 2021, the Delhi High Court, which had been hearing Verma’s challenge against the chargesheet issued to him, allowed the disciplinary authority to go ahead with its proceedings but ordered it not to take any “precipitative steps” against him.

On August 30 this year, a division bench of the High Court permitted passing of the final order after the Centre said the disciplinary proceedings had been concluded

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On September 6, the Centre moved an application before the High Court, seeking to be permitted to impose the disciplinary authority’s decision to dismiss Verma from service.

Permitting the Centre to implement the order, the division bench said, “it is directed that the order shall not be implemented till 19.09.2022, to enable the petitioner to avail of his remedies in accordance with law against the order of dismissal.”

Appearing for Verma on Monday, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said he was due to retire on September 30 whereas the HC had adjourned his plea for January next year. Stating that his petition would become infructuous by then, he urged that the matter be either transferred to the SC or the hearing in the HC be advanced.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, pointed out that the officer had not challenged the dismissal order yet. The bench asked how Verma could approach the HC before exhausting his remedies before the Central Administrative Tribunal.

First published on: 19-09-2022 at 04:20:00 pm
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