Home secretary Anil Goswami was sacked on Wednesday on charges of trying to interfere in the Saradha scam probe by asking CBI director Anil Sinha not to arrest former Congress minister Matang Sinh, a key accused in the case, official sources said.
Sinh, who was minister of state in Narasimha Rao's government in the 1990s, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Kolkata on Saturday on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation of funds. He allegedly took Rs 28 crore for selling a television channel that never went on air to Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen.
According to a home ministry official, Goswami accepted he had spoken to the CBI chief at the time of Sinh's arrest and tried to explain the logic of making the phone call, but the home minister had already spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two leaders agreed time was up for Goswami.
"Goswami has been given marching orders by the government and after that he put in his papers," said another home ministry official requesting anonymity. "(Home minister) Rajnath Singh made it clear to him that his position has become untenable."
Rural development secretary LC Goyal was appointed in Goswami's place. A 1979-batch Kerala cadre IAS officer, Goyal served in the home ministry as joint secretary from 2002-07 and looked after internal security. He is set to retire in May.
The Goswami controversy came in the midst of a major shake-up in the top echelons of government. Last week, the government removed foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and appointed S Jaishankar as her successor.
The government also cut short the tenure of DRDO chief Avinash Chander last month -- 16 months before his contract was to end -- as it wanted someone younger for the sensitive post.
Goswami, a Jammu and Kashmir cadre officer from the 1978 batch, was not available for comment. He had a fixed two-year tenure which was due to end on June 30.
The home minister also called up CBI director Sinha for his version. "Sinha corroborated what Goswami had told Rajnath, further tightening the case against the home secretary," said an official. Sinha did not comment on the issue.
Goswami was summoned to the Prime Minister's Office in the evening and official sources confirmed late on Wednesday the home secretary has been sacked.
In a carefully worded order released late in the night, the government said it had accepted Goswami's request for voluntary retirement and waived notice period. "His services are curtailed with immediate effect," it said.
It is not the first time Goswami has been in trouble over his alleged closeness to Sinh, who has also been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the 2013 Saradha scam in which thousands of small investors lost close to Rs 2,500 crore.
"During the UPA regime, top home ministry officials were frequent visitors to Matang Sinh's residence in central Delhi. He wielded enormous clout in the ministry due to his perceived closeness to Anil Goswami. Sinh was prominently seen at the wedding get-together of Goswami's son a few months back," said another home ministry official.