Though the home ministry has given its go ahead to the Gujarat government to start fresh disciplinary proceedings against former Indian Police Service officer Rahul Sharma, he said he was not aware what the new case was about. Sharma has been in the crosshairs of the BJP state government after he made a submission before the Nanavati Commission that was probing the 2002 riots.
“I have only heard about the latest permission but no information has come to me regarding this so far,” Sharma told The Wire. But, he said, that had been the case with most showcause notices and explanations sought from him by the state government earlier as well.
Speaking about how he has been repeatedly targeted by the BJP government ever since he decided to present mobile phone records of ministers, police officers and bureaucrats before the commission, Sharma said, “there were six showcause notices (against him), but only one has been dropped. As for the remaining five, I do not have any information on them”.
Similarly, the Gujarat government had earlier, when Narendra Modi was chief minister, sought nearly 30 odd explanations from him. But here again, Sharma said “this is what appeared in the newspapers. I had no formal communication regarding them”.
On being asked if he was fighting any case in the courts right now, the senior cop, who took voluntary retirement last year and is now a practicing lawyer, replied in the negative, saying, “none, zero”. Sharma said the proceedings against him, so far, had not been serious. “Showcause does not have any meaning, they are not truly speaking departmental enquiries, but probably just build up to that. The only showcause which was dropped was before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order – it pertained to the issue of rewards to the personnel,” he said.
The state asked him to explain the payment of a sum of Rs. 3000 to his driver and gunman as dearness and travel allowance and his three-month delay in accounting for a personal trip by a government vehicle.
The Gujarat government has this time sought permission from the home ministry to proceed against Sharma for some other “offence” because under the All India Service Conduct rules such a nod is essential to initiate any action against an IPS officer within four years of retirement. Sharma had applied for premature retirement in November 2014 which was accepted in February 2015.
For many, Sharma remains a hero who saved the lives of many innocent Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was posted as Superintendent of Police in Bhavnagar. This aspect has also been revealed in Rana Ayyub’s latest book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up, in which she has made a mention of how G.C. Raigar, who was the intelligence head of Gujarat during the 2002 riots and later became Additional Director General of Police, spoke to her about Sharma.
Raigar told her in an interview, “He’s (Rahul Sharma) under scrutiny [by the government] for saving Muslim lives. He saved Muslim children in a school. Not only saved but he also arrested some people and [he] arresting a ruling party member so they got him transferred from his posting.”
Sharma had also shown great courage in the face of adversity to submit the CDs containing the phone records of important functionaries around the time of the riots before the Nanavati Commission. For his actions, which were perceived as transgression by the government, Sharma was repeatedly issued show cause notices by the Gujarat government. He was also chargesheeted in 2011 in connection with some CDs containing vital mobile phone data going missing.
In response, Sharma had moved the CAT which in January 2016 scrapped the chargesheet and in a severe indictment of the state government held that the case pertaining to him was “tainted by mischief” and “coloured by malice and mala fides”.
This episode also finds a mention in Ayyub’s book: “The Gujarat government had issued a notice to senior IPS officer Rahul Sharma asking how and why he submitted phone records of senior politicians and bureaucrats during the riots to inquiry commissions without approval. In its notice, nine years after the riots, it asked Sharma why action should not be taken against him.” She wondered how this could have happened when “the SIT itself stated that the Modi government did not keep any records or minutes of the crucial meetings it held during the riots.”
Incidentally, she said, Sharma, a 1992 batch IPS officer was DCP (control room), Ahmedabad, in April 2002. “Investigating the violence at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society, he collected data from AT&T and CelForce mobile service providers of all calls received and made in Ahmedabad during this period and handed over these to the Crime Branch. These CDs containing phone records of senior ministers, police officers, and members of RSS and VHP to each other were subsequently ‘lost’. But while deposing before the Nanavati Commission set up in March 2002 to inquire into the riots, Sharma submitted a copy of this CD that he had preserved,” she wrote.