Following the BJP’s massive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, right after the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was lifted, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reinstated 11 police officers who were transferred by the Election Commission on May 26th. Controversial cop Rajeev Kumar has been reinstated as the additional director general of the state Criminal Investigation Department.
It has been further reported on May 28th that 48 IPS officers were transferred in just a few days followed by the reversal of several transfer orders. Though transfers are a common feature of IPS postings, the rate at which its been done post the elections has caused a lot of confusion.
Mamata Banerjee’s reaction to the election results does not seem surprising as several IPS officers have come under the scanner of the CBI for corruption. The CBI also seems firm on its stand as it has taken a strong stand over the cases in the Supreme Court too.
The CBI had recently issued a lookout notice against Mamata’s close aide Rajeev Kumar for his connection with the Saradha chit fund scam case to prevent him from leaving the country. The Saradha scam broke out into the open in 2013 when a Ponzi scheme run by the Saradha Group, a consortium of over 200 private companies, collapsed after collecting hundreds of crores from over 15 lakh investors.
Earlier in January, the CBI had accused the West Bengal government of obstructing investigations into the scam, claiming that the government machinery has damaged all the evidence. The then Police Commissioner and head of the SIT investigating case, Rajeev Kumar was also accused of destroying the evidence of the Saradha scam.
In February, a CBI team had reached his residence for interrogation following which they were detained by the Kolkata police. Mamata Banerjee had come out in support of Rajeev Kumar alleging that the CBI is acting on behest of Prime Minister Modi. Defying all rules and decorum, she even held a dharna that had lasted for almost 72 hours in support of the cop who was being probed for destroying evidence.
Following this, the Supreme Court had ordered the investigation of Rajeev Kumar to be carried on outside the state. He was interrogated for days in Meghalaya’s Shillong along with some other accused in the case.
Mamata’s vehement refusal to let the CBI interrogate Rajeev Kumar and her subsequent theatrics only helped fan the speculations that the government machinery and police top brass were indeed hands in gloves in the numerous chit fund scams that have plagued the state in recent years.
In May, Rajeev Kumar was relieved from his duty by the Election Commission from his post of additional DG of CID in West Bengal and was ordered to report to the MHA for failing to control the law and order situation. On May 30, the vacation bench of the Calcutta High court granted him a month’s protection from June 10, when the court would reopen after the summer break.
On interrogation, Rajeev Kumar claimed that he wasn’t handling the day to day operations of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and said that his junior officers would have some knowledge on the suppression of evidence. Following this, the CBI summoned two junior officers, Arnab Ghosh and Dilip Hazra, for questioning on May 28th.
Arnab Ghosh who was the then Deputy Commissioner (Detective Department) arrived at the CBI office the next day and was grilled for over 9 hours. Dilip Hazra, on the other hand, arrived just yesterday and was questioned for 2 hours.
Another officer who has come under the scanner is suspended IPS officer SMH Mirza. Today the CBI had summoned him for questioning after he was caught accepting bribes in the Narada sting operation.
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) June 5, 2019
The Narada tapes were released a few years before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal that showed SMH Mirza and several other TMC MLA’s and MP’s accepting money in exchange for favours from investigative journalist Mathew Samuels. Mathew Samuels, the CEO of Narada news, posed as a businessman hoping to invest in West Bengal. The CBI had filed the final charge sheet this February.
SMH Mirza who was the was the former superintendent of police of Burdwan district, was caught on camera receiving the bribe from Mathew in an 8-minute video. He had claimed that he had received the money after being told do so by a TMC leader and had later donated the money to charity.
In February this year, Gaurav Dutt, a former IPS officer, had committed suicide. Dutt had blamed CM Mamata Banerjee’s vindictive attitude and her government’s harassment of him as the reason behind his drastic step.
The dubious attitude of the TMC government towards IPS officers also had come under scanner in the infamous Park Street rape case in 2012. Damayanti Sen, the IPS officer who had cracked the case and had been relentless in her pursuit of the criminals, despite the entire government machinery out in the open to dismiss the rape allegations of the victim, was sacked from her post as Kolkata’s joint commissioner and was sent to an inferior posting of DG (Training) in Barrakpore.
The cases of Rajeev Kumar and other senior officers who have been accused of corruption and involvement in scams paints a grim picture of the functioning of the TMC government in Bengal. The way Mamata Banerjee went out of her way to prevent the interrogation of Rajeev Kumar and Rajeev Kumar being present at the dharna beside Mamata is something that was unprecedented in recent Indian politics. The role of several top cops and the Mamata government’s patronage to them should be brought forward to public notice.