The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CBI at Mumbai gates

Mumbai, Nov. 14: The CBI has publicly knocked on the Maharashtra government’s door to be let in on the snowballing stamp paper scandal that sent Mumbai’s police chief on leave today.

CBI director P.C. Sharma told a news conference in Mumbai that the bureau is already on the job in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi on the request of the governments concerned. The bureau did not rule out questioning mastermind Abdul Karim Telgi, who is now in a Bangalore jail.

“We can’t take charge of a case suo motu, we must be taken into confidence by the Maharashtra government on this as it lies within their jurisdiction,” the CBI chief said, hinting at the Congress-ruled government’s reluctance to hand over the probe.

The bureau “is not overburdened with work’’ and can easily handle the stamp scam, P.C. Sharma asserted.

The Sushil Kumar Shinde government has not responded to repeated calls for a CBI inquiry into the scam that has taken a heavy toll of the Mumbai police brass, with 11 officers behind bars for helping Telgi make and sell fake stamps.

The Shinde government will not be comfortable with an inquiry by the CBI, which reports to the Centre, especially in the wake of Opposition clamour for the resignation of deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal.

In Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, the request to the CBI would have come from National Democratic Alliance partners. While the BJP rules Gujarat, its ally Telugu Desam is at the helm in Andhra Pradesh and the Union government holds the charge of law and order in Delhi.

Police commissioner Ranjit Singh Sharma, accused of “nine counts of omission and commission” in the report submitted by the special investigation team, was today forced to go on leave after his request for a face-saving transfer was rejected by the government. Satyapal Singh, joint commissioner (crime), will be acting commissioner.

Ranjit Singh Sharma, due for retirement on November 30, had yesterday called on Shinde and Bhujbal, looking for a way out. He is believed to be close to Bhujbal.

The chief minister has time till November 27 to tell Bombay High Court what action he has taken against Ranjit Singh Sharma.

Shinde said he is still going through the investigation team’s report and that the police chief would get a chance to present his side of the story “in keeping with principles of natural justice’’.

Additional commissioner (crime) Sreedhar Vagal, already arrested for his alleged role in the scam, was suspended today. Vagal has been charged with taking a bribe from Telgi.

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