While the “ill-timed” transfer of assistant director Niranjan Singh investigating the drug money-laundering case has embarrassed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) following the stay on the order by the Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday, it is an intelligence “goof-up” that has left the Punjab Police red-faced.
After some officials of the ED moved the court last week alleging intimidation by the state police, the latter tried to do some damage-control by sending a deputy inspector general (DIG)-rank officer last week to meet the ED top brass in New Delhi and explain the “goof-up”.
ED sources here said both Punjab director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Saini and additional DGP (intelligence) Hardeep Dhillon too, in telephonic conversations with them, had ruled out any attempt at “intimidation”, and blamed subordinate officers of the criminal investigation department (CID) for it.
RK Jaiswal, who is a DIG in the intelligence department of the state police, said he went to Delhi to explain what went wrong. “At times there are operational problems. Some nine numbers were being verified through calls during a special investigation and three of them turned out to be those of ED officials. It was purely unintentional, and I have conveyed it to the ED. They are satisfied with the explanation,” Jaiswal said.
Meanwhile, ED’s special director has written a note on the incident which would be produced before the high court.
What makes the position of the state police more untenable is that the incident has undermined its credibility at a time it is facing flak for its investigations into the drug case and all the main accused — alleged kingpin Jagdish Bhola, arrested former Akali Dal leader Bittu Aulakh and Amritsar businessman Jagjit Chahal — have demanded that the probe be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
While ADGP Dhillon was on a leave, DGP Saini and DIG Jaiswal could not be contacted despite attempts.
As for the ED, it is on the back foot over the officer’s transfer and claims to be facing a serious shortage of staff at a time that it is investigating many high-profile cases. Against the sanctioned strength of 2,064 employees, including its own cadre and officers on deputation from other departments, it is functioning at one-third.
Though the ED, which works under the Union finance ministry, rules out any political interference in the transfer, it was aiming to kill two birds with one stone. Sources in the ED said Niranjan Singh had already summoned Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia and interrogated all main accused. The case had reached a final stage and filing of the challan in the trial court would not have suffered because of his transfer.
But they needed a “bold officer” to take up the investigation into the Saradha chit-fund scam in Kolkata as names of prominent leaders of the West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) have surfaced in that matter. One of the ED’s main men was even beaten up by TMC workers in December.
For the ruling BJP at the Centre, West Bengal is a bigger political field than Punjab the stakes there are higher owing to a direct confrontation with the Mamata Banerjee government. The saffron party is keen on the ED concluding its investigations against TMC bigwigs in the Saradha scam to take on Banerjee in the state polls due next year. The Rose Valley scam too, said sources, could open another Pandora’s box against the TMC.