U.P. CM elevates discredited officer

LUCKNOW, NOV. 15. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh, has placed his BJP political mentors in an unenviable situation by bringing into his Secretariat an IAS officer, Mr. Anant Kumar Singh, erstwhile District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar, under whose tenure atrocities were committed on October 2, 1994 on protesters from Uttaranchal while they were on their way to New Delhi for a demonstration.

BJP leaders, including Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, had then expressed outrage at the Muzaffarnagar incidents in which eight persons were killed and several women criminally assaulted by police near Rampur Tiraha where buses carrying the protesters had been forcibly stopped.

Mr. Rajnath Singh, while appointing the officer as one of his Secretaries, rejected on November 10 last a CBI request seeking his prosecution for the Muzaffarnagar incidents.

The State Government said the CBI request was rejected as legal opinion was that no case could be made out against Mr. Anant Kumar Singh. The CBI chargesheet had been examined once at the level of the Chief Secretary and twice by the Law Department. And it was rejected as no sufficient grounds were found to prosecute the officer, official sources said.

The other point of view was that legal opinion had been manipulated. ``Whether the officer was guilty or not can be decided only by court. By rejecting the CBI request, the Chief Minister has shown a political favour to the officer,'' said a senior IAS officer.

Interestingly, BJP leaders had sought the dismissal of Mr. Anant Kumar Singh after the Muzaffarnagar incidents. The then Chief Minister, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, first ordered a judicial inquiry but later the Allahabad High Court directed a CBI inquiry when a Public Interest Litigation was filed to expose the culprits.

The BJP itself constituted an inquiry committee headed by Lt.Gen. B.C. Khanduri, now Minister of State in the Union Government. This committee also held Mr. Anant Kumar Singh responsible for the atrocities. On October 10, 1994, a BJP delegation had called on the then President, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, to pinpoint the guilty. This delegation was led by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi. Suspension of the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police was demanded by the BJP leaders.

The CBI after its long-drawn investigations sought prosecution of the IAS officer, along with 12 others. Names of four IPS officers were also included in the list. The CBI requested permission during the tenure of the then Chief Minister, Mr. Ram Prakash Gupta, who sought the opinion of the Law Department. Mr. Rajnath Singh, after taking charge formally, rejected the CBI request this past week.

The Chief Minister's decision is likely to create political problems for the BJP in the new hill State of Uttaranchal.