As the Alok Verma-Rakesh Asthana war in CBI continues to rage, a look at Narendra Modi’s past encounters with top police officers.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds himself in the middle of a very ugly and public tussle between CBI director Alok Verma and special director Rakesh Asthana — perceived to be close to the PM.
This, however, is not the first time Modi finds himself in a spot with the Indian Police Service (IPS), having had several run-ins with many officers in the past when he was chief minister of Gujarat.
Modi’s brush with the IPS started with the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat that took place under his watch, and the “encounter” cases in the state only added to the uneasy equation.
Perhaps, the most infamous of them all is what can only be described as the hostility between Modi and Sanjiv Bhatt, a 1988-batch IPS officer in Gujarat. In 2011, Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court against CM Modi, alleging his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. In August 2015, Bhatt was sacked for “unauthorised absence from service”.
Bhatt, who has been a vocal critic of Modi on Twitter, was arrested by the Gujarat police in September this year in connection with a 1996 narcotics case. As he continues to be under arrest, Bhatt’s wife used his Twitter handle to attack the Modi government.
The latest tweet, on 12 October, said: “This is Shweta Sanjiv Bhatt. Since the past 4 months, the government has left no stone unturned in trying to subdue, victimise and harass our family.”
Sharma, a 1976-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, was known to be close to Modi. In a classic tale of friends-turned-foes, Sharma during his stint in the CID (crime) took on then minister of state for home Amit Shah in connection with the alleged Rs 1,200 crore Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank (MMCB) scam that eventually sank the bank.
Sharma also alleged he was being pressured by Modi and Shah to go slow in the 2002 riots cases. He also submitted an interim report in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case before the Supreme Court, leading to the arrest of some senior IPS officers.
The Gujarat CID, in turn, filed an FIR against Sharma in 2010, in connection with a 1984 encounter case when he was posted as SP in Kutch.
Sharma, who alleged harassment by the state government, went on a central deputation as director general of the Bureau of Police Research and Development from where he retired in December 2012. He was then appointed as an adviser in the home ministry under the UPA government.
A 1986-batch IPS officer, Satish Verma found himself in the midst of a storm in 2010 when he told the Gujarat High Court that Ishrat Jahan was killed in a fake encounter and that some police officers were trying to sabotage the investigation.
The case was transferred to the CBI, with Verma assisting in the investigation. After the Modi-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014, Verma was sent on central deputation to NEEPCO (a power PSU) in Shillong. He was evidently reluctant to take up the new assignment and he unsuccessfully protested against the transfer in the Central Administrative Tribunal.
Rai, a 1992 batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, also had a strained relationship with the Modi-led Gujarat government. In 2007, as part of the CID, Rai arrested senior IPS officers D.G. Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh M.N. in connection with the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.
He later sought voluntary retirement from service.
Yet another complex case of friendship giving way to enmity was that of Vanzara, a 1987-batch promotee IPS officer — and Modi. Vanzara, who was made the chief accused by the CBI in a string of fake encounter cases, was arrested in 2007. As he resigned from the IPS in 2013, he wrote a 10-page letter addressed to additional chief secretary (Home) where he blamed Modi — whom he was once close to — of not protecting his police officers.
“Chief minister of Gujarat has very rightly been talking of repaying his debt which he owes to Mother India… But, it would not be out of context to remind him that he, in the hurry of marching towards Delhi may kindly not forget to repay the debt which he owes to jailed police officers who endowed him with the halo of brave chief minister among the galaxy of other chief ministers who do not bear the same adjective before their names,” he wrote in the damning letter.
Vanzara, who was released on bail in February 2015, was subsequently acquitted in the Sohrabuddin case in August 2017 because of lack of evidence.