Calcutta, Oct. 17: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today announced the transfer of police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee and four others linked to the Rizwanur Rahman case, enforcing the sweeping shake-up at least 10 days after the chief minister made up his mind to take action.
Less than three hours after Bhattacharjee made public the “punishment”, Mukherjee was shunted to the telecom section of the police and Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti took charge as commissioner.
Besides Mukherjee, deputy commissioner (headquarters) Gyanwant Singh, deputy commissioner (detective department) Ajoy Kumar, assistant commissioner (anti-rowdy squad) Sukanti Chakraborty and sub-inspector Krishnendu Das have been shifted.
Commissioners have lost their jobs earlier, too, but never before in Bengal have so many senior officers got the boot at one stroke as did today.
The Telegraph had reported on October 8 that two IPS officers — Gyanwant Singh and Ajoy Kumar — would be shifted before the Pujas, and Mukherjee before or after the festival.
The chief minister, who faced rough weather at a Left Front meeting over the Rizwanur case that has been handed over to the CBI on a high court order, reached Writers’ Buildings around 4pm and headed straight to the media enclosure.
“Questions have been raised from several quarters, the media and large sections of the people about the role of the police officers. Taking all this into account, I have asked the chief secretary and home secretary to immediately remove the police commissioner, two DCs, an assistant commissioner and an SI. I don’t know the names of the last two officers,” Bhattacharjee said.
Elaborating, he said: “Apatoto, eshob officer der apasharon kora holo. Ei khetre, transfer maane punishment (For the time being, all of them have been removed. In this case, transfer means punishment). Further action would be taken after investigations by the judicial inquiry commission, the court and subsequent trial.”
Asked about the delay in taking action, he cited legal advice on the petition in the high court for a CBI inquiry. “Politically, I had taken the decision to remove the officers much earlier. It was then that the court case came up. My lawyers told me not to transfer the officers as the matter was pending in court. Every time I have to consult my lawyers and that is my problem.’’
Bhattacharjee said the government would not appeal against the high court directive for a CBI probe. “We will not go in appeal because of political reasons. More important, the sentiments of Rizwanur’s family, particularly his mother, coupled with public opinion against the police officers, have prompted us not to appeal,’’ he added.
The chief minister rejected suggestions that the controversy pushed him on the backfoot. “Does the delay in taking action reflect my weakness' Absolutely not. I wouldn’t have taken such a decision had I been weak. Actually, I decided to abide by public opinion.”
Asked whether he had censured the police commissioner, Bhattacharjee said: “I told the CP what was required to be told. Is it for the media to know what I did with or told the CP after his media conference'’’
On why he had not ordered a CBI probe as on earlier occasions, the chief minister said he thought the CID would have unearthed the truth. “Now that the high court has talked about procedural weaknesses in the CID inquiry, we will have to seek legal advice to find out the mistakes.”
Bhattacharjee said the government had contested the case on legality and not content. “A six-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is looking into whether a CBI probe can be ordered by a high court without a government directive or over the government’s head.”
He said the state government had on its own opted for CBI probe in several cases. “It’s not that the CBI is omnipotent and can solve all cases. For me, the CBI and the CID mean the same. The CID report now becomes irrelevant.’’
At the Left Front meeting earlier in the day, the CPM’s allies accused the government of “messing up the situation and inviting the high court order” for the CBI inquiry. The chief minister’s defence that he had taken a “political decision” to remove the police officers “much before” the court order did not quite placate the allies.