Protect police officer as Gujarat riots witness, SIT urged

Saturday, February 12, 2011

GANDHINAGAR - An NGO providing legal aid to victims of the 2002 riots has requested the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to protect senior police officer Rahul Sharma, a witness who was issued notice for making a compact disc containing call records of officials, politicians and rioters during the communal violence in the state.

NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch has in a letter addressed to R.K. Raghavan, chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, sought protection for Sharma following a show cause notice issued to him by the state government Feb 5.

The government has accused Sharma, who is now a deputy inspector general-rank officer based in Rajkot, of serious misconduct in discharging his duty.

The notice has been issued on the ground that Sharma had prepared a compact disc containing the call record details between Feb 25, 2002, and March 4, 2002 and the said CD was not given to the investigating officer or the crime branch. This was the period in which the worst rioting was witnessed.

The Jan Sangharsh Manch, in its letter sent Friday, states that Sharma was called as an official witness by Nanavati-Mehta Judicial Inquiry Commission probing the 2002 communal riots, and in October 2004 he produced the CDs containing those details.

It says that Sharma has been cited as a witness in cases of rioting in areas like the Gulbarg Society, Naroda Patia and Naroda Gam of Ahmedabad. It claims that the prosecution in all these cases was relying upon the mobile phone call records, which were furnished by him to the SIT.

The NGO alleges that the sudden intimidating action of the government was to “victimise Sharma for having the courage to become a witness of the SIT in prosecution of the aforesaid three cases”.

It claims that by isuing the notice, the government was trying to protect the then in-charge of the crime branch, P.P. Pandey. The Jan Sangharsh Manch alleges that Pandey, despite receiving the CD from Rahul Sharma, either misplaced it or destroyed it.

“It is needless to point out that under the threat of a show cause notice and further disciplinary proceedings, which may lead to termination of services, Rahul Sharma would be extremely hesitant to make a free and fair disclosure before the court,” the letter states.

Samshad Pathan, convener of the NGO, Saturday said that the issuance of the notice was clearly an act of interference with the due course of law and amounts to intimidating witness.

The NGO has requested that appropriate steps be taken to protect Sharma.

Sharma was posted as the district superintendent of police of Bhavnagar when the communal riots broke out. He was later transferred.

He was later told to assist the Crime Branch in probing the riot cases. As part of this exercise, he is reported to have collected call data from cellular phone operators related to the period from Feb 27-March 4, 2002, during which the riots took place.

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