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Delhi lists IAS probe shortcomings

Kiran Kumar and Jayaraman

Calcutta, June 23: The Centre has said enough proof has not been furnished against an IAS officer whose unparalleled arrest in Siliguri on the charge of corruption had prompted the Bengal government to shunt the police commissioner amid charges that the probe was being undermined.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT) in New Delhi has refused to give sanction to prosecute G. Kiran Kumar, the former district magistrate of Malda, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, as suggested by the Bengal government.

Kumar was accused of clearing funds to contractors without verification of some public projects during his stint as the chief executive officer of Siliguri-Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA).

Bengal home department officials said the DoPT’s denial to grant permission has dealt a blow to the ruling establishment as it means that the state administration did not do carry out its duty in a corruption-related matter at the time of Kumar’s arrest.

The DoPT is the co-ordinating agency of the central government in personnel matters.

According to officials, the DoPT has raised questions mainly on three factors:

Although Kumar was arrested, no statement of the accused was recorded.

The state government’s proceedings, based on which the DoPT’s permission was sought, were not vetted by the law department.

Adequate evidence was not collected to drill holes into arguments of Kumar who had enjoyed discretionary powers as the CEO of the SJDA.

State government officials said that after the DoPT pointed out the lacunae, the CID conducted a fresh inquiry and recorded the statement of Kumar, who has been put on compulsory waiting.

“Initiatives have been taken to plug the loopholes and a fresh permission was sought… We are awaiting for a reply from the DoPT,” said an official in the home department.

But another official said: “The government has sent a fresh request to the DoPT after recording the statement of the accused and the proceedings were vetted by the law department. But the key question remained unanswered: whether it has collected enough documents to prove the charges against the accused.”

A senior IPS officer said that the preliminary inquiry was hurt severely as the state government removed K. Jayaraman, the then Siliguri police commissioner, after he arrested Kumar on November 30.

Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra had announced that the police officer was shunted as he had “exceeded his brief”.

“The statement of Kumar could not be recorded as the government ensured bail for the accused the next day, saying the state had nothing to know more from him,” the officer said.

Since then, the officer added, the inquiry on the alleged corruption had come to a halt and Kumar was sent on leave. He had returned from leave a month ago and was put under compulsory waiting.

Two reasons had been cited by sources for the purported dithering by the government. One, a perceived reluctance among the bureaucracy to move against one of its own. Two, concern that an aggressive probe could lead investigators to incovinient doorsteps with political links.