Ex-Maharashtra officer flagged transfers racket, named top politicians

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IN A fresh setback for Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, it has emerged that former Commissioner of State Intelligence Rashmi Shukla had sent a letter last August to the then DGP Subodh Jaiswal stating that her personnel had intercepted communications of several persons allegedly engaged in the postings of senior police officers in exchange for money.

The seven-page letter also contains a purported summary of conversations among these persons in which they are heard dropping the names of several political leaders, including Deshmukh, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray among others.

It also contains the names of several IPS who, according to Shukla, were allegedly in touch with the key persons involved.

The letter’s contents prompted BJP’s Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis to meet the Union Home Secretary in Delhi and hand over a sealed envelope “containing 6.3GB of records related to police transfers and posting deals”.

Demanding a CBI probe, Fadnavis said: “It is evident that the state government is trying to protect someone. If needed, we will go to court.”

Deshmukh’s NCP, however, described Shukla as “an agent of the BJP”. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said Shukla had tapped the phones without taking permission, and alleged that she had tapped the phones of political leaders during government formation. “She prepared the call records illegally hence was transferred as punishment,” he said, adding that the transfer of a majority of officers mentioned in the letter did not take place.

The charges detailed in the letter were first raised by Fadnavis during a press conference Sunday and later by former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh in a Supreme Court plea against his transfer over the bomb scare case.

In the letter dated August 25, 2020, and addressed to the then State DGP Jaiswal, Shukla states that she received numerous complaints alleging that a network of brokers had emerged, “particularly individuals with firmly ingrained political connections” who were engaged in arranging postings of police officers.

“In order to authenticate these charges, the phone number of the individuals involved in these dubious activities were placed under telephonic surveillance with due regard to the established process. The reason for surveillance was to curtail the commitment of criminal offense(s) and prevent the possible breach of trust. Consequently, upon review of the gathering data, it is clear that there is significant merit in these allegations,” the letter states.

“…(the) brokers are in close contact and embroiled in these negotiations with several influential police officers ranging from inspector to several big ranks. IPS officers are in contact with such undesirable individuals,” it states.

The letter names seven persons whose phones were tapped: Mahadeo Ingle, Santosh Jagtap, Nawaz Maner Ajmuddin, Devanand Bhoje, Umesh Rathod, Vishal Kadam and Umesh Patil. The letter identifies Bhoje as a Maharashtra Home Department employee. It also names 11 IPS officers and 32 other senior police officials who allegedly were in touch with these persons for various reasons, including facilitation of transfers.

The letter includes a summary of transcripts of purported conversations that show these men dropping the names of several politicians, including “Dada,” “Pawar Saheb”, Aaditya Thackeray and the Home Minister. “Mahadeo Ingle has good relations amongst the social and political elite. Apart from police officials, he also takes up the work of facilitating transfers of collectors, deputy collectors, MHADA officials, Excise officials,” states the letter.

Shukla wrote that a high-level inquiry should be undertaken and strict measures taken against those involved. “It is also recommended that this be immediately brought to the notice of the Chief Minister as it casts serious aspersions against the credibility and functioning of the government,” she wrote.

On August 26, Jaiswal wrote to the then Home Secretary Sitaram Kunte asking for the letter to be brought to the notice of the Chief Minister, and a probe by the State CID Crime-Pune.

Within days of sending the letter, Shukla was transferred in September as the head of civil defence. She subsequently went on central deputation to the CRPF. Jaiswal, Shukla and Kunte did not respond to messages or calls from The Indian Express seeking comment.

The Indian Express also obtained the contact details of four of seven persons named in Shukla’s letter: Ingale, Jagtap, Ajumuddin and Bhoje. Ajumuddin did not respond to calls and text messages.

Ingale said he is a driver who works as an agent to rent cars, and confirmed that the two mobile numbers listed against his name in Shukla’s letter belonged to him. “But I have nothing to do with this. I have given my phone to commuters to use. I have no idea if they misused it. I stay in Osmanabad and have never come to Mumbai,” he said.

Shukla’s letter states that the person using his phone was in touch with 29 police officers, including one of DIG-rank. It lists the charge for a posting as a 10-gram gold ornament instead of cash or amounts ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 50 lakh.

Jagtap replied in a text message that he is “Covid-positive” and “unwell”. Bhoje said that he is a Class II official posted in Amravati. “I did get a posting as a steno of the Home Minister in July 2020. But I did not take it up as I was not relieved from service in Amravati. I lost my phone in July 2020 for five to six hours. I have registered a complaint at Gadge Nagar police station in Amravati. My phone may have been misused and I have nothing to do with this,” he said.

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