Mumbai, Nov. 13: On the edge of its seat all day in anticipation of action in the stamp paper scam, as night fell Mumbai was clueless if it had a police commissioner or not with the government keeping its lips sealed.
On a day of tense speculation, first there was the hum of rumour that police chief Ranjit Singh Sharma had offered to go on leave. Sources later said a face-saving formula had been worked out under which Sharma, who has only about a fortnight of service left before retirement, would shift to the home guards wing.
The police commissioner shuttled between the homes of chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal after investigators probing the Rs 3,000-crore scam submitted a report to the high court yesterday. The court urged Shinde to take action on the basis of the report that is believed to have held Sharma guilty on nine counts of omission and commission.
As a fog of confusion clothed the home and police departments and even the chief minister’s office, where conversations took place in conspiratorial tones, sources close to Bhujbal owned up to the idea of sending Sharma on leave, only to say later that the proposal had “not really” been considered.
Cosy in his office at 6.30 pm, Sharma denied he had offered to go on leave.
Shinde said: “I have received the (investigation) report but haven’t gone through it…. Any action, if necessary, will be initiated only after I go through the report.”
Bhujbal, whose resignation the Opposition has sought, admitted there were “a few lapses in the police department” — 11 officers have been arrested so far — and promised that “truth will prevail”.
A group of former Mumbai police chiefs known for their integrity — Ronnie Mendonca, Julio Ribeiro and D.S. Soman — and a crusader-bureaucrat, B.G. Deshmukh, met Shinde and pressed him to take “urgent and definite” action. An additional commissioner is among the 11 arrested.
The former police chiefs have been vocal about the apparent corruption in the department and some have called for a CBI inquiry. Soman said the government’s reticence about a CBI inquiry surprised him. “No police officer can involve himself in a scam of such expanse if they don’t have the blessings of top politicians.”
A top official also appeared before the team probing the scam. Ashok Basak, the chief of the state electricity board and a former additional home secretary, is the first bureaucrat to be summoned over the scandal.
Tentacles of the scam were discovered in Delhi with the arrest of Sushant Kumar Dass and Lalit Patodi on the charge of helping key accused Abdul Karim Telgi by providing premises and opening bank accounts.