NEW DELHI

Rajasthan Government reinstates suspended Bharatpur Collector

Following a stay granted by Central Administrative Tribunal

In a quiet move following a stay granted by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the Congress-led Government in Rajasthan has reinstated former Bharatpur Collector Krishna Kunal who was suspended for his failure to control communal violence at Gopalgarh on September 14 last year. Mr. Kunal had ordered police firing on a mosque in the town in which 10 people were killed.

A Division Bench of the CAT here earlier this week granted an interim stay on Mr. Kunal's suspension on the technical ground of the suspension orders not being accompanied by the departmental or disciplinary inquiry. The suspended Collector had contended that no probe was contemplated or pending against him.

The State Government issued orders for Mr. Kunal's reinstatement over the week-end reportedly after Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot reviewed the matter and gave a green signal for withdrawal of suspension. Mr. Kunal has been asked to wait for his new posting orders and register his presence in the Personnel Department as of now.

Ten people praying inside the Jama Masjid at Gopalgarh were killed and 38 injured on September 14, 2011, when the police resorted to indiscriminate firing on the mosque amid tension between Gujjars and Meo Muslims. Some of the policemen allegedly joined the armed Gujjar mob which stormed into the mosque and lynched the worshippers.

The CAT's directive staying the operation of the September 28, 2011 suspension order and the December 22, 2011 order by which the suspension was extended for 180 days was an interim in nature. The CAT issued notices in the case and posted it for hearing on June 13.

The State Government's decision to revoke Mr. Kunal's suspension on the basis of the CAT's interim stay has led to shock and outrage among the social activists and Muslim groups here. The “hushed manner” in which a legal loophole was left for the benefit of the suspended Collector has especially caused indignation among the informed circles.

Investigation

The Rajasthan Muslim Forum and Rajasthan unit of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind have accused Mr. Gehlot of denying justice to the victims of police firing. They said the ruling Congress' decisions after the firing to hand over investigation to the CBI and suspend the Collector and Superintendent of Police were meant to “deceive the people”.

JUH State general secretary Abdul Wahid Khatri pointed out that the next of kin of those killed in the firing had lodged as many as 12 FIRs against Mr. Kunal and the then SP, Hinglaj Dan, with the charges of murder. Strangely, the CBI has neither taken up any of these FIRs for probe nor arrested any of the policemen who sprayed bullets on the mosque.

Mr. Khatri said the Collector's reinstatement went against the principle of rule of law.

“The State Government should have sought a legal opinion for an appeal against the CAT's interim stay or corrected the lapse on [the basis of] which the order was passed. On the contrary, it has used the stay as a ploy to revoke the guilty officer's suspension.”

Rajasthan Muslim Forum convenor Qari Moinuddin wondered as to what prevented Mr. Gehlot from ordering a departmental inquiry against the accused Collector when he believed that he had ineptly handled the Gopalgarh incident: “From Mr. Gehlot's conduct, it is clear that he does not want to punish those guilty of carrying out one of the most horrific massacres in Rajasthan.”

The Muslim groups alleged that Mr. Kunal had been reinstated to defeat the spirit of this past week's order of the Rajasthan High Court instructing the CBI Director to monitor the probe into the Gopalgarh violence and submit the progress report in the court. “The way the ruling Congress is resorting to various tactics to obstruct justice is outrageous. The [State] Government is acting against the constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law,” said Mr. Moinuddin.

Muslim groups, which have been demanding Mr. Gehlot's removal ever since the Gopalgarh violence, have sought an appointment with Governor Margaret Alva to draw her attention to the State Government's conduct and seek action in accordance with the constitutional provisions.

Independent investigations carried out by civil rights groups, including the People's Union for Civil Liberties, had pointed to “collusion” between the local police, an aggressive section of the Gujjar community and some local RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP leaders during the violence. The PUCL report stated that some self-styled Hindu leaders had “pressured Mr. Kunal into ordering the firing.”



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