Ex-intel chief misguided authorities: Chief secretary’s report to Maharashtra CM
Rashmi Shukla intercepted the calls under guise of “public safety”, no transfers made during the period, says report
Chief secretary Sitaram Kunte submitted a report on Thursday to brief chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on the matter of the alleged money for transfer scam in the state police that former state intelligence commissioner Rashmi Shukla had raised in an August 2020 report after intercepting phone calls of six people.
Kunte’s report – HT has seen a copy of it – stated that Shukla intercepted the calls under the guise of “public safety” and thus “misguided the authorities”. It further stated that no transfers of police officials took place between June 27 and September 1, 2020 – the period in which the calls were intercepted, and thus no scam had occurred.
“Rashmi Shukla had taken the permission under the guise of interception of the calls of a few people in the interest of public safety, but it appears that she misguided the authorities… In fact, the interception is done in case of the possibility of the threat to national security and anti-national activities under the India Telegram Act to avoid any such threats. The interception is not expected for the political differences, professional or family disputes. However, Shukla did use the permission for the purpose other than it meant for misleading the government and misusing the permission,” it stated.
Shukla submitted a report to her senior, the then director general of police Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, naming senior politicians, middlemen and police officers, who allegedly sought transfers and postings of their liking. While the report did not state that any direct transfer of money to these politicians took place, it did refer to “monetary exchange” between police officers and middlemen acting in close connection with politicians. HT has seen a copy of the report.
Kunte’s note raised a doubt on whether the IPS officer, currently on central deputation with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), had leaked the report and contended that if that were the case then she would be liable for “strict action”.
“The leak of the report has led to breach of privacy of the officers whose names have been mentioned in the report. It has also led to their defamation. The so-called deals for the transfers mentioned in the report and actual transfers done by the government differ. This proves that there was no question of any scam in the transfers,” the brief stated.
The state intelligence department is likely to register a case against an unknown person over leak of secret documents, a senior official from the home department requesting anonymity said.
Shukla did not respond to the phone calls and text messages.
The cover letter of the report was circulated by Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis earlier this week, who alleged that Shukla had “sought proper permissions from then additional chief secretary (home) and intercepted phone calls of several police officials and politicians”.
Fadnavis further said that he had 6.3GB of data from the intercepted calls in a pen drive, which contained the voices of police officers and politicians closely related to the home minister and home department. He further demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the matter after submitting the report to the Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla.
Following these allegations, Thackeray directed Kunte to submit a report on the issue, and the chief secretary submitted a five-page note on Thursday.
Kunte’s brief stated that Shukla had not submitted any pen drive along with her report and prime facie it appeared that she leaked the report, which was top secret, to the Opposition.
“The report submitted to the home department had no pen drive (which was displayed by leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis in a press conference on Tuesday) along with it. The report leaked in the media appears to be the office copy of it which was in possession of Shukla. This could lead to strict action against her,” the report stated.
The brief further pointed out that Kunte confronted Shukla following the illegal interception.
“Shukla then personally met me, home minister Anil Deshmukh, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and expressed her apology. She also cited family reasons, including her husband’s demise while requesting to not initiate any action against her. She also requested permission to withdraw the report, but since there were no such provisions, she was not given the permission. However, her request to not initiate the action was accepted on humanitarian grounds,” the report stated.
Jaiswal forwarded the report to Kunte, who was the then additional chief secretary (Home), on August 26.
“It is a serious matter and necessitates urgent action by the state government. It is recommended that this be brought to the notice of Hon. Chief Minister at the earliest and an immediate and comprehensive enquiry by State CID (Crime), Pune be ordered to identify concerned individuals and take necessary legal action. It is also advised that the secrecy of this report be ensured, in order to prevent unnecessary scrutiny, which may bring disrepute to the government,” Jaiswal wrote in the covering letter.
Kunte’s report stated that he brought Shukla’s report to the CM’s notice, who in turn directed him (Kunte) to submit his opinion/remarks on it.
On August 31, 2020, Kunte informed the CM: “It has been said that there was no concrete evidence (about money for transfers scam) except so called intersection and CDR analysis and therefore the CID enquiry (as suggested by the then DGP Subodh Kumar Jaiswal) would be undesirable.”
Housing minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Jitendra Awhad on Thursday reiterated his allegations against Shukla saying she acted on behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
While briefing the media at his official bungalow on Thursday, Awhad alleged that an independent MLA from Shirol (Kolhapur) Rajendra Patil Yadravkar who later joined the coalition MVA government in 2019, was put under surveillance purportedly by Shukla. “An officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police was put to watch his movements constantly to put pressure on him. She [Shukla] even had asked Yadravkar over phone, “Will your loyalty be at stake if you have a cup of tea with me?” Awhad said.
“The phones of many political leaders and ministers from the state government were under surveillance under the behest of Shukla. This is a serious violation of the existing laws including Official Secrets Act and strict action needs to be taken against her. The decision about the action will be taken by top leadership in the government,” he said.
When asked why the state government did not take action against the officers after it learnt about the illegal interception of the calls, Awhad said that the government avoided action on humanitarian ground. “Shukla submitted an apology letter to home minister Anil Deshmukh and urged for the pardon. But after a few days, she requested chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and home minister Anil Deshmukh to withdraw the letter,” he said.
Awhad said that Shukla’s report and the interception of the calls for it was part of the “conspiracy” against the state government. On Wednesday, the minister said that the report came up for discussion at the state cabinet meeting, and several ministers were “furious” about the report.
Shukla’s report mentioned the names of politicians such as NCP chief Sharad Pawar, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Deshmukh, as they came up in the alleged conversations.
The report did not state that the middlemen spoke to these leaders directly. It contended that one middleman is an assistant in the home minister’s office.
In the summary to the report, Shukla wrote: “The aforesaid brokers were in close contacts and embroiled in these negotiations with several influential and the police officers ranging from inspectors to several high-ranking officers are in contact with such undesirable individuals. The information obtained and evidence collected is highly incriminating and gravely implicates a number of individuals engaged in this activity.”
BJP legislator Atul Bhatkhalkar said that chief secretary Sitaram Kunte has himself admitted to having given permission. “In his report he has said that he gave permission, but it was taken by misguiding him. This has proved the MVA government’s claim of having not given the permission for tapping the phones is false. The report talks about Shukla’s apology, but it has no proof. Secondly, why was Rashmi Shukla pardoned for such a serious illegal crime of tapping phones? Forgiving her is an offence committed by the home minister and home secretary. I am moving Lokayukta on Monday seeking action against both of them,” he said.