IPS officer Rashmi Shukla has contended that she was being witch hunted and being made a scapegoat for doing her duty in the phone tapping case and the then additional Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte was trying to absolve himself by putting the blame on her.
A First Information report (FIR) was lodged against Shukla by the Mumbai police’s cyber cell in a case of illegal phone tapping and alleged leaking of sensitive documents related to police postings. Shukla was Commissioner, State Intelligence Department between October 11, 2018 and September 3, 2020. During this time, based on a report, then Director General of Police, directed her to conduct surveillance on certain phone numbers after taking necessary permissions from the Home Ministry.
Mahesh Jethmalani, Shukla’s counsel, argued that if the state government’s claim is true that there is nothing incriminating in her report then why was it (government) not sharing the same with the CBI which is probing alleged corruption case against Anil Deshmukh.
The arguments were made before a division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar which is hearing a petition filed by Shukla challenging the FIR filed against her.
Jethmalani argued that the state government’s act of transferring her within 10 days of her submitting a report shows its malafide intentions. “I submit the report on August 25, 2020 and I am transferred on September 2, 2020 illegally and arbitrarily without following any due process of law,” argued Jethmalani.
Before the phones were intercepted, necessary permissions were taken from Sitaram Kunte, who was then the appropriate authority. Kunte had given permission Shukla to carry out surveillance from July 17, 2020 to July 29, 2020. The permission was then regularly extended. Kunte confirmed in his report submitted to the government on March 25, 2021 that permissions were granted for interception. But later he said he was misled while permission was sought.
“Kunte is now trying to absolve himself by pushing the blame on me. Did he grant repeated permissions without application of mind?” asked Jethmalani.
Jethmalani also pointed out to the court that atleast nine instances were intercepted where police personnel were negotiating with agents regarding favourable transfer or posting.
“If the interceptions and my (Shukla’s) report is useless then why is the government not handing it over to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) then what are you (government) investigating?” questioned Jethmalani.
On July 22, the HC had held that the CBI can inquire into the allegations of corruption in transfer and postings of police personnel and its alleged nexus with former home minister Anil Deshmukh. Based on this, the central agency, on April 21, registered an FIR against Deshmukh on charges of corruption and misuse of official position.
However, the state government is refusing to share documents with the CBI, including Shukla’s repot, claiming that their investigation in the matter was still going on.
Jethmalani argued: “There is manifest contradiction (in government’s stand). Why are they not handing it over to the CBI? There is much more to the tapes.”
Rubbishing the claim that Shukla had later met some ministers and sought to withdraw the report saying that at the time (of submitting the report) she was going through personal tragedy. “I (Shukla) am willing to undergo lie detector test. I am proud of what I have done as an investigator. You (government) can shun me out but don’t add insult to injury. There should be limit to state arrogance,” argued Jethmalani.
Expressing hope in the Indian judicial system, Jethmalani said: “You are never so high that you are above law. Unfortunate part of this government is that corruption stands on a higher footing,” he said.
The HC will hear further arguments in the case on August 21.
At present, Shukla is serving as additional director general of the Central Reserve Police Force's (CRPF) South Zone and is posted in Hyderabad.
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