Is the Ghaziabad SSP Paying With His Suspension for Acting Against Erring Officers, BJP Leaders?

A former top cop opines that such suspensions without any inquiry are demoralising for the police force. However, they are often aimed at sending out a message to other officers to fall in line with the government.

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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has claimed to have suspended Ghaziabad senior superintendent of police (SSP) Pawan Kumar for the alleged dereliction of duty and the “failure” to control crime. However, his recent actions against erring police officers and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have raised serious questions over his suspension.

Retired UP-cadre Indian Police Service officer, Ajai Raj Sharma, told The Wire that no matter what the reasons are for such suspensions, they are always demoralising for the force. Sharma had also served as the director-general of the Border Security Force and commissioner of the Delhi Police.

The former top cop, who spent 28 years of his service in Uttar Pradesh, said that though he does not know the particulars of this case, he could say that “whenever you select a person to head the police in a place like Ghaziabad [which borders the National Capital Territory of Delhi], usually he or she is a person with a good record and reputation. So, I personally feel that he [Kumar] must have come [to Ghaziabad] due to his past reputation and a good record”.

Sharma said that before the police department suspends a person, there should be an inquiry. It could be a simple inquiry over two to three days to confirm whether the accusations against the officer are correct or not. After that, if the officer is found guilty in the preliminary probe, a detailed inquiry should follow.

‘A police officer should not be suspended without a probe’

Sharma further said that an inquiry should have been conducted so that the officer in question does not feel that he has been suspended without any probe or without any reason or cause. “However, I do not know the condition for the government or the pressing need which made his suspension a necessity,” he added.

Apart from Kumar, the UP government also suspended Sonbhadra district magistrate T.K. Shibu for alleged corruption in the mining sector in his district. The allegations were levelled by public representatives.

Also read: The Real ‘State’ in India Is Its Criminal Justice System

Additional chief secretary (information) Navneet Sehgal confirmed the suspensions, saying, “On the direction of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the Sonbhadra district magistrate and Ghaziabad SSP have been suspended.”

Kumar’s suspension came barely three days after three men on a bike robbed Rs 25 lakh from the employees of a petrol pump, which falls under the Mansuri police station area of Ghaziabad. It is not known whether the UP police had carried out a proper investigation before suspending Kumar.

SSP’s views on various issues had irked BJP leaders

Kumar, who was posted in Ghaziabad in August 2021, had drawn the ire of several local BJP leaders due to his stand on at least three issues.

In October last year, Kumar had recommended the imposition of the Goondas Act against the controversial Dasna temple priest, Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati. The move had welcomed serious criticism from the local right-wing politicians. The district magistrate had, however, not accepted the recommendation.

Journalist Kaushik Raj had shared a video on Twitter where Narsinghanand said that chief minister Yogi Adityanath acted against those police officers who were imposing the Goondas Act on him.

A month later, Kumar suspended the station house officer (SHO) of Loni police station for breaching the Official Secrets Act. The SHO had made a general diary entry public, in which he had claimed that he was transferred following a shootout with local criminals.

In this matter, BJP had openly supported the SHO and its Loni legislator had even issued a statement in his favour.

Then, more recently, on the day of counting of votes for the assembly polls on March 10, Kumar issued a statement in support of the police officers who stopped a party Rajya Sabha MP, the mayor of Ghaziabad and the district president from entering a vote-counting centre.

The police claimed that the three leaders did not possess the necessary documents or pass to proceed beyond the barrier.

The three senior party functionaries were taken to the Govindpuram police chowki and were detained for four hours. According to Times of India report, Kumar had said that the police officers were only following his orders.

Following this incident, BJP’s city president, Sanjeev Sharma, had lodged a complaint against Kumar. He had also claimed that there were many other complaints against the officer.

Reacting to the developments, Ajai Raj Sharma said the suspensions of the district magistrate and the SSP – who are the seniormost officers of the district – could be meant “to create an impact”. “They [the suspensions] may have been carried out to send out a message to the remaining officers to ensure obedience and compliance.”

‘Transfers and suspensions have increased over the past decade’

Sharma said that transfers and suspensions in the police department were rare when he had joined the service; however, they have become a norm now. “It was not common at all then. We functioned without any interference,” he added.

“This is a phenomenon which has only increased over the past 10-12 years,” he observes.

“Earlier, the officers knew whatever the director general of police (DGP) would say should happen and that he and the home secretary would stand by their genuine actions. Their opinion was very important. The chief minister also usually used to go with their opinion,” he added.