In a major development, which may bring much needed relief to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte in his report on Thursday claimed that the former Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) Rashmi Shukla may have leaked her confidential letter on the alleged corruption in transfers in the police department to Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis (BJP). Kunte took into account Shukla’s letter dated August 25, 2020, to the then Maharashtra DGP Subodh Jaiswal which was released in the public domain by Fadnavis two days ago.
Kunte, who was then the additional chief secretary (home), in his report submitted to the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray made it amply clear that there was no wrongdoing in the police transfers and all transfers of police officers made between September 2-October 28, 2020, were based on the recommendations of the Police Establishment Board. The Chief Secretary accused Shukla of misusing the permission obtained for phone tapping under the Indian Telegram Act.
“Despite stamping the letter as ‘TOP SECRET’, Shukla seems to have leaked the letter, which is a very serious matter. If it is proved, she will be liable for strictest action against her,” Kunte said in his report, which was made public on late Thursday evening.
“She had intercepted the phone calls and exposing these names also threatened the privacy of the officials,'” said Kunte.
Kunte refuted the BJP’s claim that no action was taken on Shukla’s report. He shared the summary of the findings into her claims presented to Thackeray on August 31, 2020. “Maintaining that there was no concrete evidence barring the call record detail analysis, it was reasoned that launching a CID inquiry would be ‘undesirable’. Moreover, it was held that this would lead to a witch-hunt and cause serious discontent among officers. No malpractice could be established in Shukla’s report,’’ he noted.
The transfers mentioned in Shukla’s letter, however, did not actually take place, and “there is no misdeed in transfers as well,” said the chief secretary.
Referring to speculation about more data in a pen drive, Kunte said there was no accompanying pen drive when Shukla sent her letter to the state government. He has thereby countered Fadnavis’s claim of 6.3 GB data containing the transcript of phone tapping.
“Prima facie, it appears that the letter has been leaked by Shukla herself,” Kunted reiterated.
He also claimed that Shukla had sought permission to tap some phone calls saying it was needed “in the interest of public safety”, but she misled the state government.
According to Kunte, Shukla tendered an apology in person to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and him in his capacity as the additional chief secretary (home). However, he said the state government decided not to take any action against Shukla despite her owning up to her ‘mistake’ on ‘humanitarian grounds’.
Further, Kunte countered Fadnavis’s allegations saying that the recommendations of the Police Establishment Board were followed in the transfers of 167 IPS officers in 2020.
As reported by The Free Press Journal, the state government may initiate disciplinary or legal action against Shukla for the breach of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and the Indian Telegram Act.