Officers Heading Delhi Riots, Bhima Koregaon Probes Receive 'Medal for Excellence'

A home ministry statement says the awards were instituted to promote high professional standards of investigation of crime and to recognise such excellence by officers.

New Delhi: Controversial Delhi Police officer Rajesh Deo has been conferred the Union home minister’s Medal for Excellence in Investigation, which was announced on August 12.

Deputy commissioner of police (Crime Branch) Deo, who is heading the Delhi riots probe team, was reprimanded by the Election Commission of India (ECI) this past February for linking a gunman who had fired shots at the Shaheen Bagh protest site in Delhi to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Deo had told reporters that photographs recovered from the gunman Kapil Gujjar’s phone established that sometime ago, he had joined AAP along with his father.

The ECI, in a letter to the Delhi Police commissioner, stated that Deo’s comments were “totally uncalled for” and issued a warning to the officer for making comments with “political connotations”. It had said that such comments would have “consequences for holding free and fair elections” due in Delhi on February 8.

In those elections, the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre, was expected to give a stiff fight to AAP, which was seeking to retain power in the national capital. Then AAP leader Sanjay Singh had accused the officer of acting at the behest of the BJP.

The ECI had barred Deo, a DANIPS officer, from election duty.

He is currently heading one of the Special Investigation Teams (SITs) formed to probe the Northeast Delhi riots, which occurred almost immediately after the Delhi elections. The probe teams have also come under criticism for alleged bias in their investigations.

Also Read: Explainer: Who Are the Policemen Heading SITs on the Delhi Riots?

On August 12, Deo was named as one of the 121 recipients of home minister Amit Shah’s awards for investigation, along with a National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer leading the Bhima Koregaon probe.

NIA officer, superintendent of police Vikram Khalate, probing the case since January, in his affidavit before the Bombay high court, had claimed that ailing poet and activist Varavara Rao, who had tested positive for COVID 19, was “under the garb” of the global pandemic and his old age, “trying to take an undue benefit” to seek bail.

The probe was initiated by the Pune Police, but was transferred to the NIA in January this year. ACP Shivaji Pawar, who headed the Pune Police’s investigation, also receive the medal.

The Bhima Koregaon probe, under which 12 lawyers, activists and academics have so far been arrested, has been described as an attempt by the BJP to silence and target dissenters. Though the victims of the Bhima Koregaon violence have accused two Hindutva leaders ‒ Shambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote ‒ of inciting the violence, the Pune Police initially and the NIA subsequently, have claimed without any concrete evidence that the ‘Elgar Parishad’ was responsible.

Also Read: Bhima Koregaon: Amid Demands For Fresh Probe, A Hard Look at the Case’s Discrepancies

As per an MHA statement, these awards were instituted in 2018 with the aim of promoting high professional standards of investigation of crime and to recognise such excellence in investigation by officers. The ministry, however, has not shared the details of the ‘high professional standards’ for which these officers have been awarded.

The recipients included 21 women from different states.