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Fuel focus shifts to registrar

- ‘Conspirator’ in court today; probe finds negligence by official

Calcutta, Dec. 5: The flames of the kerosene conspiracy today threatened to gut a fresh victim — Bismay Rai, the registrar of the home publication department.

Rai had hired Jyotirmoy Nandi to spray insecticide in the Writers’ Buildings department and said he was sure the pest controller did not have any ulterior motive. Jyotirmoy, 47, was arrested on Saturday for his alleged involvement in a “conspiracy” to set Writers’ ablaze.

Hare Street police station today submitted a report to the home department, highlighting acts of “negligence” by Rai. Sources said action could be taken against the secretarial service officer.

“Our probe has revealed that certain actions of Rai had compromised the security of a protected place like Writers’,” an officer of Hare Street police station said. “But we have not found anything against Jyotirmoy.”

The report marks a 180-degree turn from the way the police have gone about the probe since home secretary Basudeb Banerjee alleged on Friday that there was a conspiracy to burn down Writers’.

Following Banerjee’s statement, the police had picked up Jyotirmoy and slapped on him several stern charges that, if proved, could attract a life term.

Although the police had spoken to Rai once during the probe, he had not been in the scheme of the investigation. Now that the police have almost given a clean chit to Jyotirmoy, Rai’s role has come under the scanner.

“It is beyond doubt that the charges against Jyotirmoy cannot be proved, which would be an embarrassment for the government. So, it appears Rai has become the target as the administration has to prove that there was a genuine reason for the home secretary to press the panic button,” a Nabanna source said.

As Rai was Jyotirmoy’s only contact at Writers’, several questions have been raised in the report about the manner in which the registrar had hired the pest controller.

“A three-year agreement between Jyotirmoy and Rai was signed in 2007. The agreement was not renewed after it expired in March 2010, but Jyotirmoy continued rendering his service. How could he allow an outsider to work in a protected place without any written agreement?” the report apparently says.

The report mentions that no background check was done before hiring Jyotirmoy. It also says the home publication department’s room — a repository of 42,000 books and reports — was not kept under lock and key.

A senior official said the content of the report was “enough” to issue a showcause notice to Rai, the first step of disciplinary action for alleged negligence.

If found guilty, the punishment can range from censure to expulsion from service, an official said.

“But the question is whether he is being targeted for negligence,” the official said, adding that top officials at Nabanna had not taken kindly to Rai’s assertion in public that Jyotirmoy was not guilty.

“It appears that Rai could be showcaused for speaking to the media on the arrest without taking the permission of higher authorities. That is a violation of service rules,” a home department official said.

The West Bengal Service (duties, rights and obligations) Rules, 1980, prevent government employees from speaking to the media without permission.

Rai refused comment on the report but said he had never neglected his duty.

“I never allowed Jyotirmoy to roam around freely in Writers’. An employee of my department always accompanied him,” Rai said, adding that keeping the room under lock and key was the PWD’s responsibility.

Jyotirmoy’s 73-year-old mother Chitra, who had come to Calcutta today from her home in Hooghly’s Serampore in the hope that her son would be released, had to return empty-handed.

“Officers at Hare Street police station had given me the impression yesterday that my son would be released today. That’s why I had gone to Calcutta,” Chitra told The Telegraph over phone this evening. She spent the day at the Bankshall Court compound, hoping her son would be brought there.

“I was told today that he would be produced before a magistrate tomorrow. I will again go to Calcutta tomorrow with the hope that he would be released,” added Chitra, who was accompanied by daughter Sumita and her husband.

After his arrest, Jyotirmoy had been remanded in police custody till December 6, which means his scheduled court production date is tomorrow.

Sources said the officers probing the case had been instructed to produce Jyotirmoy a day earlier but the plan was scrapped.

“The plan was changed today as a section in the administration thought that producing him in court before the scheduled date would further embarrass the administration,” a source in Nabanna said.