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Under scanner, DM scoffs at neglect charge

- Incongruities in claims of BDO ‘assault’ complaint timing, number and FIR

Calcutta, May 1: North 24-Parganas district magistrate Sanjay Bansal today rolled out a long list of actions taken by the administration over a block development officer’s complaint of being abused while trying to enforce the model code of conduct in Ashoknagar.

At a news conference in his Barasat office, Bansal, who has been accused of going slow on the probe, said a report on the alleged incident had been sent to the Election Commission (EC) and police had arrested 15 people after drawing up an FIR.

“We have followed all rules and the Election Commission is aware of it. There is no negligence on the part of the district administration,” said Bansal, with district police chief Tanmay Ray Chaudhury seated next to him.

District secretariat sources said Bansal had held the news conference as the Ashoknagar incident had given the Opposition a chance to attack the administration.

In his first letter to the police — which Bansal today described as a mere “draft” and not a formal complaint —Habra II BDO Dinabandhu Gayen had alleged being abused and assaulted by Trinamul MLA Dhiman Roy on March 25. This, he said, happened after he had removed festoons, posters and banners carrying the chief minister’s images from a road maintained by the PWD.

Gayen later submitted a second letter that did not mention Roy or any assault, confining the charges to threats and “hot talkings” by 25 Trinamul supporters.

“(Bansal’s) formal news conference is part of a strategy to bury the controversy,” a senior official said.

“Suddenly, the district has come under the scanner of the poll panel because of the incident and the DM is under pressure. So he is trying to send out a message that there was no deficiency in the action taken by the district administration,” he added.

Senior EC officials had said yesterday that they were following the developments in North 24-Parganas and would take appropriate action after getting a detailed report.

Bansal had sent a report, but the EC has said a detailed report by a special investigation team made up of the additional superintendent of police and the subdivisional police officer was needed. The DM is also supposed to forward to the EC a report from BDO Gayen.

Although Bansal said everything was being done according to rules, several questions on the district administration’s handling of the issue remained unanswered.

Complaint timing

At the news conference this afternoon, Bansal said he had received the complaint via an email from Gayen on March 28.

But Gayen’s first letter to the police carries both the dates March 25 and 26, and the second is dated March 26, according to copies with The Telegraph. They were addressed to the officer in charge of Ashoknagar police station, with copies to the district magistrate.

Mystery of two

Bansal said Gayen had lodged one complaint, not two, and that the first letter was not a complaint. “It was one of four drafts Gayen had written before writing the final complaint on the same day,” Bansal said.

He said the FIR had been drawn up on the basis of the final complaint, where Gayen did not name any individual.

A district official said: “Everyone in the district administration knows that Gayen changed the content of his complaint under duress, but our bosses are not admitting that.”

A senior WBCS officer said Bansal’s logic was not watertight. “Both the complaints have the same memo number. Do you expect a senior WBCS officer to put the memo number and official seal on a draft?” he asked.

EC communication

There is confusion over when the EC was informed about the allegations. The rules say the poll panel must be informed about such incidents within 24 hours.

EC officials said they had been in the dark till March 30 and came to know about the allegations from a report in The Telegraph.

The DM, however, said he had informed the EC about Gayen’s complaint on March 29, a day after the FIR was lodged at Ashoknagar police station. “I had sent it to the EC on March 29 with some other reports,” Bansal said.

FIR haze

Police superintendent Ray Chaudhury today said the FIR was registered after receiving the hard copy of the complaint from Gayen “on March 28”. Bansal had given a different version to this newspaper on Sunday.

“The FIR was immediately registered after I forwarded Gayen’s email to the police asking the SP (superintendent) to take lawful action,” Bansal had said.

Action ‘delay’

The police said they acted immediately after getting the complaint. But there was no explanation why a letter written on March 26 reached the police two days later.

Sources close to Gayen, who could not be contacted despite repeated attempts, said the district secretariat had come to know about the alleged assault by the evening of March 26.

“How would the secretariat officials have known about the incident if the complaint was sent on March 28?” a junior official asked.

Gayen-DM meeting

The BDO had left the DM’s chamber around noon yesterday. Bansal had asked him to file a detailed report on the incident by today. Gayen was seen entering Bansal’s chamber again around 7 last evening and spent two hours there.

“The BDO was asked to come as we had to discuss a few things as it was the last day of the financial year and we had to speak about some treasury-related issues,” Bansal had said yesterday.

Sources, however, said the DM had called Gayen again to “ensure” that the BDO’s report was in line with what Bansal had been saying.

Although Bansal contested the claim that he had discussed the report with Gayen last evening, he gave a different version today.

“The BDO submitted the report yesterday evening,” Bansal said during the news conference.