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In 2017, Bhupesh Baghel wrote to PM demanding action against NAN scam accused, later, appointed him in govt: Questions Congress must answer

The NAN scam is one case that shows the extent of the rot that a system has been made to suffer - with police officers, IAS officers, judges and politicians fabricating evidence, weakening a case of corruption under investigation, coercing witnesses, threatening witnesses, shielding accused, perpetuating hawala transactions and more - and Congress must answer these questions.

In 2015, when the BJP was in power in Chhattisgarh and Dr Raman Singh was the Chief Minister, Congress had alleged that the government was distributing sub-standard quality grains under the PDS and that officials had received kickbacks from rice millers to allow this. The Nagrik Apurti Nigam is the nodal agency in Chhattisgarh responsible for procuring and distributing food grains under PDS. The BJP government had launched a probe into what came to be known as the NAN scam and subsequently, 27 people were booked by the BJP govt – Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla being the prime accused. ACB later started a money laundering probe as well and a chargesheet was filed in 2015. After this, Congress came to power in Chhattisgarh.

What transpired in Chhattisgarh after the Bhupesh Baghel government took reign was corruption with impunity, a coordinated campaign to save the primary accused, Anil Tuteja, in the NAN scam and an attempt to use IPS officers, the Judiciary and other means at the government’s disposal to implicate Raman Singh in the scam, using fabricated evidence, coercion of witnesses and other extra-judicial means.

OpIndia has accessed Whatsapp chats of Anil Tuteja-IAS Officer, presently Joint Secretary Industries and his Son Yash Tuteja, which was retrieved by Income Tax consequent to its raids conducted in Chhattisgarh, wherein his mobile phone was seized in February 2020. These Whatsapp chats now in possession of OpIndia contain the messages exchanged between the Tutejas and senior IPS officers in the State namely, SRP Kalluri, Kalyan Elesela, G.P Singh and Arif Sheikh. The chats clearly demonstrate that the entire criminal justice delivery system in the State is being abused, misused and mutilated at the behest of Anil Tuteja and his son Yash Tuteja. A detailed story about what the chats entailed was published by OpIndia on the 18th of January 2023. The story can be read here.

The conduct of successive Senior IPS officers in relation to the NAN Scam, as evidenced by the Whatsapp chats, makes it amply clear that top police officers of the state, have been reduced to being aids of the prime accused in the case and are actively conspiring with Anil Tuteja and his Son Yash Tuteja, not just to undermine the sanctity of the NAN Trial, where Anil Tuteja, is a prime accused but also to fix officers and register FIRs against those whose interest conflict with that of all-powerful Tutejas. 

The chats accessed by OpIndia prove that the Congress government functionaries at the behest of the Chief Minister and prime accused Anil Tuteja were fabricating evidence and threatening witnesses to implicate Dr Raman Singh and his wife. In fact, the chats also show that Anil Tuteja was acting as the head of the NAN investigation where he himself was the prime accused and was coordinating the transfer of IPS officers, promotions and other favours doled to those who were willing to participate in these nefarious designs. Further, those who did not comply were being given punishment posting or worse, being implicated in false cases themselves. 

It is pertinent to note that in April 2017, Bhupesh Baghel and TS Singhdev, the then Leader of the Opposition in Chhattisgarh, had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding action against two IAS officers who are prime accused in the NAN scam. In the letter, they had insinuated that the Modi government was deliberately not prosecuting Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla because if they were prosecuted, they could reveal secrets about the involvement of Dr Raman Singh in the scam.

The letter that Bhupesh Baghel wrote in 2017 to PM Modi, talking about the NAN scam and the prime accused – Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla

The subject of the letter by Bhupesh Baghel and Singhdev was titled, “Regarding non-conducting of the proper enquiry against the officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) involved in corruption”. Alluding to the “Na Khaunga Na Khane Dunga” slogan of the Prime Minister, Congress wrote that they were writing to the Prime Minister in the hopes that he would stay true to his slogan and ensure action is taken against the corrupt IAS officers.

“Although the action, which has not been taken as that the 2 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers have neither been arrested nor any surprise checks been conducted at their residences. In the entire FIR and the charge sheet filed in this case. Subsequently, the main role of both the above-mentioned senior administrative officers has been indicated. However, it is surprising that even the sanction for prosecution has also been sent by the DOPT against both of them in July 2016. However, in spite of the same, not to speak of their arrest and conducting the surprise raids at their residences, even the charge sheet has not. been filed against them in the court”, the letter said. The two IAS officers that the letter referred to were IAS Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla, who were prime accused in the case. It is pertinent to note that when the scam was being perpetrated, Anil Tuteja, a 2003 batch IAS officer, was posted as the Managing Director of NAN.

In the letter, Baghel had said that by not prosecuting Tutaja and Shukla, the government was trying to protect its own Chief Minister (Dr Raman Singh) and leaders who were involved in the scam. “The government fears that both the senior administrative officers can name the minister/Chief Minister in the investigation. Therefore, every possible effort is being made to protect them”, the letter said. The letter said that only recently has the investigation been handed over to the CBI/ED but the perception is that once the investigation is done by these agencies, BJP leaders are often saved.

The letter further requested PM Modi to instruct CBI and ED to file FIR and chargesheet against the 2 IAS officers and to conduct raids against their premises, urging him to take action against the accused including “big leaders from BJP”.

The broad timeline of the NAN scam

The PDF came to light when the State’s ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau) conducted raids on the offices of NAN in February 2015. At this time, it was the Raman Singh government that was in power and Anil Tuteja was the Managing Director of NAN. Unaccounted cash worth Rs 3.65 crores was seized during the raids. An FIR was registered against 27 people and two senior IAS officers, Anil Tuteja (former chairman of NAN) and Alok Shukla (former managing director of NAN) were suspended for overlooking the discrepancies by the Raman Singh government.

In the FIR that was filed in 2015 itself, it was mentioned that Shiv Shankar Bhatt who was the Manager of CSC was a close confidant of the Managing Director and illegal money is being distributed through one Shri Girish Sharma who was working as the PA to Manager Co-ordination, Steno to Managing Director who is none other than Anil Tuteja. There were also details of ill-gotten money being exchanged that were detailed in the FIR. In the preliminary FIR, therefore, Anil Tuteja’s name did tangentially feature.

On the 18th of February 2015, the statement of Girish Sharma who was the PA to Manager Co-ordination, Steno to Anil Tuteja was taken. He said that the rice millers were regularly harassed and therefore, they agreed to pay money illegally. The money received was split between officers as per a decided ratio. He had said that Alok Shukla gets the share of the Chairman as per the instructions of Anil Tuteja.

On the 6th of May, chargesheet was filed by the EOW (Economics Offences Wing) where the role of Anil Tuteja was made out, however, he was not added as an accused because they had to get sanction to prosecute from the government. Later in 2015, the State government granted sanctions to prosecute Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla. The central government also gave its sanction in 2016.

It was in November 2018 that a supplementary chargesheet was filed in which, Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla were named as prime accused in the NAN scam.

It is pertinent to note that this entire sequence of event has happened under the BJP government in the central govt and the state.

It was in December 2018 that Bhupesh Baghel took oath as the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh after Congress came to power. Since then, the case has been tarnished and weakened and a concerted effort has been made to shield the prime accused in the case and implicate Raman Singh, his wife, Mukesh Gupta, Alok Shukla and others.

In 2019, ED filed an ECIR where Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla were said to be prima facie liable for money laundering. Interestingly, it was on the 3rd of January 2019, days after coming to power in Chhattisgarh, that Bhupesh Baghel formed an SIT to probe the NAN scam despite the fact that EOW-ACB had already filed a chargesheet in the case and named Tuteja and Shukla as prime accused. After the SIT was formed, Sanjay Devasthale, the investigating officer of the EOW who had investigated the case and named Tuteja and Shukla as prime accused was unceremoniously suspended the very next day. He was later reinstated after being coerced to give favourable statements per the whims of Bhupesh Baghel, a thread we will explore in subsequent reports.

In April 2019, Anil Tuteja got anticipatory bail from the High Court and in 2020, both Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla got bail in the ED (money laundering) matter. After Tuteja got bail, both the prime accused officers were reinstated again by the Bhupesh Baghel government. Tuteja was the Joint Secretary for Commerce and Industries and Shukla became the Principal Secretary in charge of Education and other departments.

GP Singh, one of the officers who were in contact with Tuteja while he was the EOW chief filed a petition in court recently where he spoke about how he was summoned by Baghel twice to coerce him into implicating Raman Singh and others. In the petition that has been accessed by OpIndia, GP Singh tells the court that on the 14th of September 2019, he was summoned to the residence of the Chief Minister (Bhupesh Baghel) in the dead of the night and was directed to implicate Raman Singh the NAN scam.

Most explosively, before this midnight meeting concluded between GP Singh and CM Baghel, Singh was asked to inform the prime accused in the NAN Scam – Anil Tuteja – of the developments in the investigation. GP Singh says that Tuteja then contacted him on multiple occasions to get an update on the case and also insisted that erstwhile BJP government functionaries and the then CM, Raman Singh, should be implicated in the NAN scam. 

GP Singh says that on the 10th of May 2020, he was called again for a private meeting with CM Bhupesh Baghel where he was once again instructed to implicate BJP leader Raman Singh and his wife in the NAN scam. 

Throughout this period, there were several chats and revelations that had come to the fore in the court of law. For example, on the 18th of November 2021, the Times of India reported: “Message conversations seized by the IT department shockingly revealed that both the main accused (Tuteja and Shukla) in connivance with successive chiefs of prosecuting agency-Economic Offences Wing, Anti-Corruption Bureau of Chhattisgarh, a very senior law officer in the Chhattisgarh HC, members of the SIT and with the intervention of the Chief Minister have weakened the offence of corruption against them by procuring favourable reports from SIT and by actively threatening witness of predicate offences as well as offences of money laundering”. “The transcript of such messages clearly reveal the nature of misuse of power in Chhattisgarh, the tampering of evidence and influencing the witnesses going on a potential conspiracy involving some constitutional functionaries also”. 

Further, on the 19th of October 2022, an explosive exchange took place in the Supreme Court, while hearing a case in connection with the NAN scam (Nagrik Apurti Nigam or Public Distribution Corporation scam) of Chhattisgarh. The case in the Supreme Court was filed by the Enforcement Directorate requesting a transfer of the case outside of the state alleging collusion between highly placed persons to save the prime accused in the case. It was also reported to the court that before Anil Tuteja secured bail, Bhupesh Baghel had himself met the High Court Judge, thereby influencing the decision to grant the prime accused bail.

The chats that were accessed by OpIndia revealed that most of these allegations appeared prima facie true. Throughout 2019 and 2020, there were conversations between highly placed police officers namely, SRP Kalluri, Kalyan Elesela, G.P Singh and Arif Sheikh who were regularly in touch with the prime accused Anil Tuteja and his son Yash Tuteja to not only save them but also to implicate Ex-Chief Minister, Raman Singh and his family members, former Principle Secretary Aman Singh and his wife Yasmeen Singh, Former DG (Police) Mukesh Gupta, Ashok Chaturvedi and Chintamani Chandrakar.

The questions that Bhupesh Baghel must answer in the NAN scam, explaining his conduct and attempts to save the prime accused in the case

Keeping this timeline in mind, and the chats and documents that OpIndia has acquired and released, it becomes pertinent that certain questions are addressed to Congress leader and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, especially, keeping in mind the letter he wrote to the Prime Minister in the year 2017.

1. In 2015, when the scam came to the fore and raids were conducted by the BJP government, the Congress government went hammer and tongs against the Raman Singh government, claiming that he was directly involved in the NAN scam. At that point in time, was the Congress high command in the knowledge of Bhupesh Baghel’s proximity to Anil Tuteja, Yash Tuteja and Alok Shukla?

2. In 2017, Bhupesh Baghel wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi asking him to be true to his anti-corruption slogan and take action against the 2 officers who were prime accused in the case – referring to Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla. Essentially, this would mean that Bhupesh Baghel is himself, just as the investigating authorities are, convinced that the two accused were indeed involved in the scam and deserve to be prosecuted. If this is so, why did Bhupesh Baghel reinstate Tuteja and Shukla in his government as soon as they got bail from the court? As explained above, as soon as they got bail, Bhupesh Baghel appointed them to the government.

3. Given that the prime accused (that even Bhupesh Baghel wanted to be prosecuted in 2017) is now getting patronage from Baghel himself, is it safe to assume that Bhupesh Baghel either condones the corruption by the two accused or, the far worse possibility, that Baghel himself was involved in the NAN scam in some capacity?

4. In 2017, in his letter to the Prime Minister, Bhupesh Baghel alleged that the BJP govt was trying to protect Tuteja and Shukla because if they were prosecuted, then names of big BJP leaders would come tumbling out in the NAN scam. Given that now Baghel has not only reinstated the prime accused in his government but as the chats prove, has been actively trying to protect them, can it be said that there are big Congress names that Baghel is trying to ensure don’t tumble out?

5. History has proved that there are mostly two reasons why politicians try to shield corrupt bureaucrats – either they are in on the corruption or the bureaucrat has enough dirt on the politician, which essentially makes them duty-bound to protect them – Would Bhupesh Baghel clarify which scenario is accurate in his case, if at all?

6. If Bhupesh Baghel’s aim was to ensure that Anil Tuteja and Alok Shukla get prosecuted in the NAN scam, as they should, why did he form an SIT days after coming to power in Chhattisgarh when the EOW-ACB can already named the two officers as prime accused in the NAN scam in the Supplementary Chargesheet? If the aim of the SIT was to ensure they be prosecuted, then the SIT itself was redundant since the EOW-ACB had already chargesheeted them. By extension, then, was the aim of the SIT to reverse the finding of the EOW and save the two prime accused?

7. Bhupesh Baghel has so far not made any comments on the allegations levelled by GP Singh in his submission. GP Singh December 2022 approached the court and said that on two occasions, he was personally called by Bhupesh Baghel. In the first meeting, he was given a hitlist of people who had to be implicated in the NAN scam. The hitlist had names of Ex-Chief Minister, Raman Singh and his family members, former Principle Secretary Aman Singh and his wife Yasmeen Singh, Former DG (Police) Mukesh Gupta, Ashok Chaturvedi and Chintamani Chandrakar. He says he was also threatened that if he does not implicate these people, he will fall into trouble. Bhupesh Baghel needs to break his silence about these two alleged meetings and the hitlist that was supplied personally by him to GP Singh.

8. After the SIT was formed by Bhupesh Baghel (even though EOW-ACB had chargesheeted the two accused), on the very next day, Sanjay Devasthale was unceremoniously suspended. He was the investigating officer of EOW. Was he suspended for his temerity to chargesheet two prime accused that Baghel was trying to shield? He was later reinstated without reason. What was he coerced to do? What was the agreement reached? Was he asked to implicate Raman Singh and others as well? Was he asked to shield Tuteja and Shukla?

9. Why was GP Singh asked to report to Anil Tuteja and keep him in the loop about the investigation in the NAN scam by Bhupesh Baghel personally?

10. Was Bhupesh Baghel aware of GP Singh acting as a Hawala operator for Anil Tuteja? Was GP Singh doing this at the behest of Bhupesh Baghel? Was he instructed to do this just like he was instructed to keep Tuteja in the loop about NAN investigation?

11. How and why do Anil Tuteja and his son, Yash Tuteja, have so much extra constitutional power in the state of Chhattisgarh that they were affecting transfers, posting, suspensions and were even dictating the Status Report about a case where they were the prime accused?

12. Who was the High Court judge that Bhupesh Baghel met, after which Anil Tuteja and Shukla were granted bail?

While the NAN scam is elaborate, what is far more elaborate is the extent to which the Bhupesh Baghel administration seems to have gone to not only save the prime accused but also to implicate Raman Singh and others in the scam. The preliminary questions posed here to Bhupesh Baghel are just that – preliminary questions. As OpIndia said earlier, the NAN scam is one case that shows the extent of the rot that a system has been made to suffer – with police officers, IAS officers, judges and politicians fabricating evidence, weakening a case of corruption under investigation, coercing witnesses, threatening witnesses, shielding accused, perpetuating hawala transactions and more. As we keep peeling back the layers of this scam and delving more into the chats that OpIndia has accessed, we will continue to pose follow-up questions to CM Bhupesh Baghel in our ‘The Chhattisgarh Files’ series.

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