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Friday, October 30, 2020

Assam: 19 held for paper leak; cops say accused ex-DIG, BJP leader on the run

Assam DGP Bhakarjyoti Mahanta told the media: “We have announced an award for information on both prime accused who are absconding. We request the public to help us to locate them.”

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati | September 29, 2020 2:35:22 am
The exam for 597 posts of sub-inspectors — for which over 66,000 candidates were to appear on September 20 – was cancelled following preliminary reports that the question paper was leaked and circulated on WhatsApp. (File)

Nineteen people have so far been arrested in connection with the leak of question paper of an examination to recruit sub-inspectors in the force, even as two key accused – a former top cop and a BJP leader – remain absconding, Assam Police said on Monday.

Assam DGP Bhakarjyoti Mahanta told the media: “We have announced an award for information on both prime accused who are absconding. We request the public to help us to locate them.”

Later in the evening the police announced the reward amount of Rs 1 lakh each.

The exam for 597 posts of sub-inspectors — for which over 66,000 candidates were to appear on September 20 – was cancelled following preliminary reports that the question paper was leaked and circulated on WhatsApp.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal subsequently directed the State-Level Police Recruitment Board (SLPRB) to re-conduct the examination within a month.

According to initial investigation, the police have identified P K Dutta, a former Assam Police DIG, as the prime accused.

The other accused, Diban Deka, had unsuccessfully contested the 2011 Assembly elections on a BJP ticket from Barkhetry constituency. The party has said that any BJP leader found guilty should be arrested.

Additional DGP (Law and Order) G P Singh said, “Both of them are absconding and all our efforts are on to nab both of them…We are investigating how Diban Deka got the (question) paper (that was leaked), and his connection with Dutta,”

Deka was not named in the initial FIR but his name came up during preliminary probe, and he was interrogated at the CID headquarters last week. He was not arrested at the time and subsequently went into hiding.

On the prime accused, and modus operandi of the crime, IGP (CID) Surendra Kumar told reporters on Monday that the police had last week raided two hotels, allegedly owned by Dutta, in Guwahati and found evidence allegedly connecting him to the case. These include evidence that allegedly link to a “training” service that the police believe Dutta ran for the candidates who were willing to pay money: a burnt flex banner used in the temporary ‘office’ while enrolling these candidates for training, money allegedly receipts from candidates, 445 blank admission forms, and copies of advertisements. Kumar said candidates allegedly paid Rs 10,000 as “fee” for this purported training.

A pistol with expired licence was also recovered at Dutta’s residence, Kumar said.

“We have found that on September 19, the day before exam, many candidates checked into a hotel in the evening and checked out the following morning, before the exam,” Kumar said. He said further investigation is on regarding these candidates.

“The candidates were told that they have to ensure that they pass the physical test and the rest would be taken care of,” Kumar said.

At a later stage, the police said, there was another alleged transaction of money with those enrolled – this time for the question paper of the written test. The police are now looking into all properties owned by Dutta, including one in Maharashtra.

Asked why the BJP leader was not arrested after interrogation, Additional DGP Singh said there was no evidence against Deka at the time. “If there was some evidence of his involvement he would have been arrested…. But now that his name has come up, all efforts are on to arrest him,” he said.

SLPRB chairman, Pradeep Kumar, resigned on Sunday taking moral responsibility. Late Monday evening, Sonowal appointed DGP Mahanta as the new chairman. Sonowal also directed the Board to complete the written examination by November 20.

The issue, meanwhile, has taken a political turn. While Sonowal, in a recent statement, has said that those “involved in the nexus” will not go unpunished, Opposition Congress has taken on the government and the CM. In a statement on Monday, senior Congress leader Debabrata Saikia called for an inquiry by a sitting judge of Gauhati High Court. He also stated that “one gets the impression that Mr Sonowal, who is in charge of the Home Department, is influencing the police into diverting the investigation into a maze”.

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