SC to hear plea of senior IPS officer against removal as Himachal DGP following HC order

 The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on Wednesday the petition filed by senior IPS officer Sanjay Kundu challenging his removal as the Himachal Pradesh Director General of Police following a high court order over allegations that he tried to pressure a businessman who claimed he received threat to his life from his partners .

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra on Tuesday took note of the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Kundu, and agreed to hear the plea.

Rohatgi said the matter was “extraordinary” as the high court did not hear Kundu before directing the state government on December 26 to shift him.

The top court initially said it will hear the plea during the day itself. However, it later took note of Rohatgi’s submissions and posted the plea for consideration on Wednesday.

Following the high court direction, an order transferring Kundu was issued by the Himachal Pradesh governor on Tuesday. He has been transferred to the state’s Ayush department as principal secretary.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court had on December 26 directed the state government to shift the state police chief and the Kangra superintendent of police so they don’t influence a probe into a businessman’s complaint about a threat to his life.

In its order, the high court also said it was intervening due to “exceptional circumstances, more particularly when the respondent Home Secretary had chosen to turn a blind eye” to material presented in the case.

In his complaint filed on October 28, Palampur-based businessman Nishant Sharma alleged threat to him, his family and property from his business partners.

He had also questioned the conduct of Kundu, alleging that the officer made phone calls to him and asked him to come to Shimla.

“Shift them (the DGP and the Kangra police chief) to other posts where they would not have any opportunity to influence the investigation in the case,” a division bench of Chief Justice M S Ramachandra Rao and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua had said.

“In the light of the material available to us in this case till date, we are satisfied that exceptional circumstances do exist for intervening in the matter, more particularly when the respondent Home Secretary had chosen to turn a blind eye to the said material for reasons best known to him,” the high court had said.

The HC had, on November 10, taken cognisance of another complaint by Sharma with the Shimla superintendent of police, two days after the DGP filed a defamation case against the businessman.

The businessman alleged in the October 28 complaint that he was attacked by his business partners in Gurugram on August 25, and that two influential persons from Himachal Pradesh, including a former IPS officer, were also involved.

He claimed, after the attack, he came to Palampur in Kangra district, but the DGP called him up from his official phone number and “forced me to come to Shimla”.

“On the same day two criminals stop me at Mcleodganj in Dharamshala and threaten to harm my two-and-half-year old kid and wife,” the businessman alleged.

“I drove to the house of the Superintendent of Police, Kangra (Shalini Agnihotri) at Dharamshala and narrated the plight to her and gave her my complaint but nothing has been done so far,” he claimed in his complaint.

He said he wanted an independent and unbiased investigation and FIR against everyone involved, including the DGP.

“This is the only way you would be able to apprehend this whole gang of extortionists,” he said, marking the complaint to many people, including the chief justice of the high court.

The DGP filed a defamation case against the businessman on November 4, accusing him of harming his reputation and attempting to malign his image.

The high court had observed that the SP, Kangra, showed very little progress in the investigation after having “deliberately delayed” the registration of FIR till November 16, despite having received a complaint on October 28 through an email.

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Earlier, on November 10, the HC issued notice to the SPs of Shimla and Kangra and asked them to file a status report by November 16. It was only then that the Mcleodganj Police Station in Dharamshala filed an FIR against unknown persons on Sharma’s complaint.

The high court had observed that the material collected by the Shimla superintendent of police prima facie indicates that the DGP was in touch with an alleged business partner of the complainant.

The DGP had allegedly repeatedly attempted to contact the complainant on October 27 (15 missed calls) and had put the complainant under surveillance and filed FIR against him, it said.

The high court had observed that the state’s home secretary had ample opportunity to study the status reports filed by the SPs of Kangra and Shimla and take a call on the continuance of Kundu as the DGP but he did not move even his “little finger in the matter”.

During the hearing on December 21, the Advocate General of Himachal Pradesh had said the investigation was being done fairly and uninfluenced by the office of the DGP but amicus curiae Neeraj Gupta, who is assisting the court in the matter, insisted that the investigation cannot be fair in light of the material collected during investigation by Shimla SP.

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