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Parting kick to stamp cop

Mumbai, Nov. 26: The Maharashtra government has ordered an inquiry against R.S. Sharma, the Mumbai police commissioner who was shunted to a transport corporation following an uproar over the fake stamp paper scandal.

The departmental probe order came four days before Sharma’s retirement and on the eve of a high court deadline on the government to detail the action taken against the senior police officer.

The flurry of activity has also fuelled speculation that the government is exploring the possibility of chargesheeting Sharma before he leaves the force.

The special investigation team probing the scam indicted Sharma on nine counts of omission and commission, holding him responsible for shielding and going soft on Abdul Karim Telgi, the main accused.

Soon after the investigation report was handed over to the high court, the officer had gone on indefinite leave.

When Sharma was on leave, the government transferred him from his high-profile post to administration as additional director-general. His promotion as director-general was stalled, and he was posted as chief vigilance officer in the Maharashtra State Transport Corporation.

Sources said the notice for the departmental inquiry was cleared by Shinde on November 24 before he left for campaigning for the Assembly polls.

If the probe finds him guilty, Sharma will be the first police commissioner in Mumbai to have his gratuity and pension blocked.

Sharma’s indictment has shaken the government, which has shuffled the police force, forcing the chief minister to say at a number of public meetings that “what is happening is not good”.

The investigation team has arrested 11 police officers, among them Sreedhar Vagal, an IPS officer who was a joint commissioner. Now lodged at a Pune jail, Vagal has pleaded before a court to treat him like a Class I undertrial as he was a high-ranking officer.

Tomorrow’s high court proceedings will be keenly watched to see whether the classified investigation report on Sharma will be made public and whether the judge will make any observation on efforts to hand over the probe to the CBI.

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