NATIONAL

Stamp paper scam: Mumbai police chief wants to `shift out'

MUMBAI NOV. 13. The process of finding a new Police Commissioner for Mumbai commenced today with the incumbent, R.S. Sharma, conveying to the Maharashtra Government orally today he "would like to shift out" after he was cited for nine acts of commission and omission in the handling of the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam in the initial stages, by a special official appointed by the Mumbai High Court.

Mr. Sharma was to have been promoted to the rank of Director-General of Police on November 1, but his file was put on hold some weeks back soon after S.S. Puri, retired IPS official, was asked to probe Mr. Sharma's role in the scam probe.

Well-placed sources told The Hindu, "Now there is no question of retrieving that file. Enough embarrassment has been caused all around already." Mr. Sharma was not available for comment.

Pending a replacement, Mr. Sharma stayed away from office.

However, despite Mr. Sharma conveying to the Chief Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, today that he would like to leave the job he got about 11 months ago, his letter did not reach the Home Ministry till late in the evening. The Government is yet to decide on how to deal with him — let him go on leave before making up its mind on any executive action against him or have one follow the other.

Mr. Puri's report filed in the High Court reached Mr. Shinde only this evening and given the official delicacies involved in such a high profile case — with the High Court keeping tabs on the entire probe — the official machinery wants to move in a "proper fashion". The process of "studying the Puri Report would commence" but "no time would be lost". The Puri Report has said that it needs to further probe some unspecified aspects of Mr. Sharma's conduct.

Mr. Sharma met both Mr. Shinde and the Deputy Chief Minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, at their respective offices and told them that he saw no point in continuing in the office as he was cited for inadequacy in the handling of the probe when he was the Pune Police Commissioner. The investigations began in Pune in 2002, though the first case was registered in 1995 in

Mumbai. Mr. Sharma is stated to have said that he was willing to take up any post, including heading the Home Guards.

Vagal in magisterial custody

PTI reports:

Meanwhile, in Pune, the Joint Commissioner of Police (Intelligence), Sridhar Vagal, arrested for his alleged complicity in the scam, was today remanded to magisterial custody till November 27.

Counsel for Mr. Vagal submitted an application to the court saying that there would be danger to the police official's life if he was kept in the Yerwada jail, where a number of underworld criminals were also lodged.

Counsel made the submission when Mr. Vagal was produced in court on the expiry of his police remand.