Top Himachal cops end more on wrong side of law

Top police officers of Himachal Pradesh seem to have ended up on the wrong side of the law themselves.

Shimla: One has been accused of forgery and cheating and another of abetment to suicide while a third one shot himself dead. These are not criminals but top police officers of Himachal Pradesh who have ended up on the wrong side of the law themselves.

Besides police officers, senior bureaucrats too have been booked and arrested in various cases. The last two years alone have seen at least three Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, two Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and a couple of other senior government officials being booked for criminal offences.

The most recent case is the alleged involvement of a police official in the suicide of an unmarried woman in Shimla.

Inspector General (Law and Order) Pradeep Kumar Sarpal has been booked along with his wife and son Siddharth under Sections 306 and 201 (abetment to suicide and causing destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

They were booked after Ritu, 28, a teacher, who was allegedly in love with Siddharth, committed suicide March 28 by hanging herself from a ceiling fan at her home.

The victim`s family claimed that she took the extreme step after the Sarpals refused to marry off their son to her.

According to the police, Sarpal, his son and some policemen entered Ritu`s house after she committed suicide and tried to tamper with the evidence. At that time, there was no one at her residence.

The state police have also been in the news for the wrong reasons because of controversial former additional director general of police B.S. Thind.

During his 30-year-long career, Thind, who retired last month while under suspension, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which incidentally is now headed by a fellow Himachal-cadre IPS officer, Ashwini Kumar, in a forgery and cheating case. He was suspended twice and has a series of inter-state criminal cases registered against him, in which inquiries are still pending.

Inspector General (Railway and Traffic) Jagjit Kumar, 57, shot himself with his service revolver at his official residence here in November 2009. Police said Kumar committed suicide due to his personal problems but his family alleged that he was being harassed by his seniors.

Meanwhile, the name of vigilance chief D.S. Manhas recently figured in a CD controversy, where he was purportedly talking to Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, about "fixing up" union Steel Minister and former chief minister Virbhadra Singh in cases. The authenticity of the CD has been questioned.

Dhumal said his government is "observing zero tolerance both on the issue of corruption and on the involvement of officials in criminal acts".

"We have given a free hand to the vigilance bureau to keep tab on government functionaries. Whenever such cases surface, we immediately constitute inquiries. Even in the case of involvement of Inspector General Sarpal in the suicide case, we asked the crime investigation department to inquire into the matter," said Dhumal, who also holds the home portfolio.

Senior bureaucrats too are involved in many cases.

Subhash Ahluwalia, a 1989 batch IAS officer, was arrested by the vigilance bureau in October 2008 on charges of illegally amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income by misusing his position.

IAS officer Sanjay Gupta, who was General Industries Corporation (GIC) managing director, was arrested by vigilance sleuths in July 2009 on charges of corruption for possessing an unaccounted Rs.200,000 in cash. He was booked for irregularities earlier as well in Kinnaur district.

Though the government has revoked the suspension of Ahluwalia and Gupta, their cases are still pending in courts.

Earlier, state Drugs Controller Sher Singh, was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs.500,000 in the Baddi-Barotiwala industrial belt. He too was reinstated by the government last month.

According to the vigilance bureau, 271 cases against government officials were registered from January 2008 to Jan 31, 2010.

"Charge sheets have been filed in various courts against 65 people and seven have been convicted from 2008 to 2010," Manhas said.

Leader of opposition Vidya Stokes said, "The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has already earned nationwide condemnation for lawless and ragging incidents in the state. It has now compromised on corruption. The reinstatement of tainted officials in the recent past is an example in this regard."