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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Bengal scam probe becomes IAS vs IPS showdown

Officer arrests DM in Rs 200 cr scam,both put on compulsory waiting,probe set back as accused after accused follows IAS officer in getting bail.

Written by Madhuparna Das | Kolkata | Published: December 27, 2013 2:11:06 am

A scam involving Rs 200 crore,one of West Bengal’s biggest,has been overshadowed by an IAS-IPS tussle that has broken out during the probe.

A key accused is an IAS officer,serving as a district magistrate when he was arrested on charges of corruption. He has since got bail but been removed from the post. He has been designated an “officer on compulsory waiting”; so has the IPS officer who made the arrest. An OCW has no functions in the administrative set-up,and such a posting is perceived as a punishment.

K Jayaraman,until recently the commissioner in the Siliguri Commissionerate,is a DIG-ranked officer. He was moved out after the government declared the arrest “unnecessary and embarrassing”. Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra announced that Jayaraman had “exceeded his brief” when he arrested Godala Kiran Kumar,the DM. Jayaraman had not kept the government in the loop,the chief secretary added.

The tussle also seems to have set the probe back. There had been 10 other arrests,including those of government engineers and businessmen,and all got bail after the IAS officer did.

The scam happened in Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority when Kiran Kumar was its chief executive officer. He is being probed in eight cases involving siphoning of funds meant for projects that were executed only on paper. Arrested on December 1,he spent four days in police custody before the police told a court they did not need his custody any longer.

The eight cases had been lodged by the government in April and May. Police are yet to file the chargesheets though they have prepared the one in the case in which Kiran Kumar was arrested; it is now awaiting sanction from the home department.

Said Jag Mohan,current commissioner in the Siliguri Commissionerate,“In one case,we are waiting for permission from the government to prosecute Kiran Kumar and name him in the chargesheet. The chargesheet is ready; we have all the evidence ready. In the other seven cases,the chargesheets are being worked on. In all the cases,the IAS official’s connection to the siphoning of the money has been established.”

Jayraman had initially refused to go on leave after he was asked to,but has now done so. “I am on leave now and don’t know the status of the case. I believe I have discharged my duties,” Jayaraman told The Indian Express.

After the FIR was lodged,Jayaraman is said to have informed the state government about the alleged involvement of Kiran Kumar and some ruling party MLAs. The development authority’s chairman until April was Rudranath Bhattacharya,the local MLA. He was removed and has been questioned several several times during the investigation. “The matter is sub judice and I will not comment,” he told The Indian Express.

A police officer said,“We have got evidence against the IAS officer,but none yet against the politician.”

The MLA’s removal came at the same time as Kiran Kumar’s transfer from the CEO post to that of DM. North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb has been the development authority’s chairman since. Deb said the scam had started during the Left regime. “Our government is investigating,” he said. Former minister Ashok Bhattcharya,chairman of the authority during the Left regime,said,“We have demanded a CBI inquiry. I know senior Trinamool leaders and cabinet ministers are involved .”

Atri Deo Sharma,Kiran Kumar’s lawyer,said,“No chargesheet has been filed against my client. All other accused were granted bail after my client was. An engineer had stayed behind bars for three months,but was granted bail as the chargesheet had not been filed in three months.”

Home department officials indicated Wednesday Jayaraman did keep the government in the loop,saying he wrote letters in July and October with details about the IAS officer’s alleged involvement. The letters said the probe was being hampered in the absence of action against the DM for siphoning off over Rs 150 crore. Investigators claim to have recovered Rs 30 crore after freezing 20 accounts including those of contractors and engineers.

Sources said the October letter said unless the DM was taken into custody,those arrested too would get bail.

Kumar,formerly an assistant veterinary surgeon in the Andhra Pradesh government,joined the civil services in 2005. Jayaraman,from Tamil Nadu,worked for the Indian Air Force before joining the IPS in 1997. Kumar has gone to his Andhra Pradesh home. Contacted earlier,he had said: “I have been victimised. There is a political conspiracy.”

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