Just a week after suspending Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt, the Gujarat government on Saturday charge-sheeted senior officer Rahul Sharma for alleged misconduct in not submitting the original CDs containing mobile phone call records related to the 2002 communal riots.
"Rahul Sharma was today served the copy of the chargesheet," state government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas told media persons.
Sharma, who confirmed he has received the copy, was chargesheeted after his notice period ended on Friday. The DIG rank officer was served the first notice on January 27 and the final one on July 28, seeking his reply within 15 days.
In the chargesheet, the IPS officer has been accused of gross misconduct under Section 3(1) of All India Service Rules 1969. He has been accused of not submitting the CDs containing phone call records during the post-Godhra riots to respective Investigating Officers of Naroda Gam, Naroda Patia and Gulburg Society cases.
According to the government, Sharma's conduct was unbecoming of an IPS officer as he did not submit the CDs even to his superiors when he was transferred from the post of DCP Control (Ahmedabad).
"Sharma has committed gross misconduct by taking away vital CDs from the case papers," Vyas said.
Vyas, who is also a minister, clarified that Sharma has not been served a show-cause notice for deposing before courts and commissions looking into riot-related cases.
"It is not the case. In fact, it is the opposite. Because of his not giving the CDs to investigating officers or supervisory officers, he has caused serious infirmity to the investigation," he alleged.
"Sharma served as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Control), Ahmedabad from March 24, 2002 to July 3, 2002. He was not the investigating officer or direct supervisory officer in the riot cases for which the compact disks were procured from cell-phone service providers," Vyas said.
"Sharma, on receiving the said CDs, did not include the same as case property," he said.
From the data obtained from the mobile service providers, Sharma had prepared CDs detailing the calls made by important people in the state administration, including ministers, police officials, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists during the communal violence.
Sharma, currently posted as deputy inspector general of police (arms unit) at Rajkot, had later submitted the CDs to the Nanavati Commission, Banerjee Committee and Supreme Court-appointed SIT, who dealt with the Godhra train case and subsequent riots in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state.
Sharma's lawyer Mukul Sinha dubbed the charges against his client as "absurd".
"The charge is that Sharma had taken away the CDs. I think the allegation is absolutely absurd because he was assisting investigations and the Crime Branch had actually asked him to analyse the CDs," Sinha said.
"We are certainly going to challenge the entire action either in the departmental proceedings or even outside," he said.
Meanwhile, Vyas also took on Home Minister P Chidambaram who had spoken about the possibility of the Centre stepping in over the issue of Narendra Modi government's action against two senior IPS officers.
"This attitude is dangerous to the federal governance of the country," Vyas said.
On Friday, the Gujarat high court rejected Sharma's plea seeking grounds on which he was served a show-cause notice.
IPS officer Bhatt, who has alleged Narendra Modi's complicity in the post-Godhra riots, was suspended on August 8 for "acts of indiscipline".
Vyas said that the charge-sheet was given to Sharma only after he failed to reply to the issues raised in the show-cause notice.
"The officer (Sharma) was also provided with the records he wanted. The government had extended the time for him to reply as per the provisions of the administrative procedures," Vyas said.
"Instead of reciprocating (as per) the provisions of the procedures on co-ordination between the government and administration, the officer opted to approach the court," he said.
Vyas also addressed a question regarding Sharma's claim that he had handed over the original and only kept a duplicate CD.
"There is no question of handing over the original and retaining the copy. You cannot retain the copy of the documents which you are not legally authorised to have. Tomorrow, if somebody starts doing it, then I think no government system would work," he said.