| Bankar after appearing before the SIT in Mumbai. (PTI)
Mumbai, Jan. 5: Sleuths probing the stamp paper scam today grilled Chhagan Bhujbal’s private secretary for nearly four hours amid speculation that the former Maharashtra deputy chief minister could himself be summoned any time by the special investigation team.
The SIT had already sent summons to Bhujbal’s nephew and Man Friday, Sameer, asking him to appear before it today. Sameer did not make it, though police sources insisted he would arrive from the US tonight.
The summons on Sameer is being seen here as the first step before the SIT inches towards Bhujbal, whose name has repeatedly figured in connection with the racket masterminded by Abdul Karim Telgi.
S.K. Bankar, the private secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party leader, was questioned personally by SIT chief S.S. Puri at the team’s Worli office. Sources said he was asked questions relating to the transfers of police officers sanctioned by the home ministry during Bhujbal’s tenure.
Not only was the police department hit by allegations that huge sums of money changed hands during deals struck between police officers and politicians, it was also accused of transferring corrupt officers to places that guaranteed the safety of Telgi and the other accused.
Dilip Kamath, a police officer jailed in connection with the scam, recently wrote a letter to the governor alleging that both Bhujbal and Sameer were involved and that protection to Telgi was provided by the home ministry. Opposition members in the Assembly, who targeted Bhujbal, also accused Sameer of having links with Jalgaon-based businessman Antim Totla — who is perceived to be close to Telgi.
Totla has been charged with accepting Rs 4 crore from Telgi to talk to politicians and police officers and have them treat his friend “properly” while watering down the cases against him.
In a related development, former city police chief R.S. Sharma today filed a petition in Bombay High Court challenging his arrest under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Sharma, who is lodged in a Pune jail, has been charged with accepting bribes from Telgi to go slow on him. The matter has been posted for hearing on January 7.
Sharma has also questioned the appointment of Puri as head of the SIT.
In Bangalore, a court remanded Rehan Baig, the younger brother of Karnataka minister Roshan Baig — who resigned following allegations of involvement in the scam— in judicial custody till January 19. The investigators had accused Rehan of renting out his premises to Telgi.
Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna told reporters he has forwarded Baig’s resignation to the governor and dismissed suggestions that he was playing on the “backfoot” while dealing with the scam, according to PTI.
“We are playing like Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble,” he said, referring to the performance of the two cricketers in ongoing Test against Australia.
A Raj Bhavan communiqué said the governor had accepted the resignation with immediate effect.