A fresh war of words erupted between the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Gujarat government’s action against two senior police officials, who had made stunning revelations about the role of chief minister Narendra Modi and other ministers during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots.
Home minister P Chidambaram said the Centre had the option of protecting the two IPS officers, Sanjiv Bhatt and Rahul Sharma, in case they approached it.
He said, “Rules do provide for the Centre to take certain decisions at certain stages. But for that, the officer concerned has to invoke the rule. Then, we'll certainly look into it.”
The BJP reacted sharply, saying the home minister's statement amounted to “unnecessary interference”. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, “If officers of a state government are indulging in any indiscipline, it is for the state government to deal with them.”He said, "If there is unnecessary interference by the government of India, the BJP will raise the issue seriously."
Bhatt, who had filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court against the Modi government over the Godhra riots issue, was suspended last week.
On Thursday, deputy inspector general-rank officer Sharma was issued a show-cause notice for handing over call records
of BJP leaders and government officials during the riots in CD to various agencies, including the special investigation team that was set up to probe the riots.
Another police officer, Rajnish Rai, who is fighting a legal battle with the state for downgrading his annual confidential report, accused former state police chief PC Pande and former junior home minister Amit Shah of destroying evidence and delaying investigations into the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.
The Gujarat government swung into action immediately after Chidambaram’s statement. “False propaganda is being spread that Shri Sharma is being penalised…Sharma has not been suspended and no charge-sheet has yet been served on him,” state government spokesperson and health minister Jay Narayan Vyas said in a press release.
Justifying the show-cause notice served on Sharma, the state government charged him with “gross misconduct by taking away vital CDs ….He did not give the CDs to inquiry officer or supervisory officer and has caused serious infirmity to the investigation,” Vyas said.