Monday, November 29, 1999

State wants Pune police commissioner to explain Bagwe row

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Mumbai, May 16 -- The state Home department on Saturday sought explanation from Pune's Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh over how a police officer was allowed to speak to journalist against the minister of the department that governs the police force. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Chandra Iyengar confirmed this but refused to divulge details. Home department officials are peeved because a deputy commissioner of police in Pune was allowed to hold media briefings and explain cases against Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagwe instead of bringing the matter to the notice of senior officials at the state secretariat. This is being treated as a major breach of protocol and officials feel it aggravated the situation. The department had issued a gag order to the police earlier this year, following several news leaks over the rift among senior police officials. "This shows a complete lack of leadership in Pune. Instead of controlling a situation, the Pune police have allowed it go out of hand and have caused the government embarrassment," said a senior Home department official requesting anonymity. The Pune passport office stalled the renewal of Bagwe's passport after the police verification report showed 19 cases pending against him, including serious charges such as kidnapping. Bagwe, however, has denied these charges. "I have only three cases pending against me, not 16. And all these cases are political in nature, which can be registered against all political workers for political protests," Bagwe told Hindustan Times. "I will take this issue up with the chief minister and demand a probe into the people who are trying to defame me." The public war mongering between officials and the minister has caused serious damage to the department's public image. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who was in Nanded on Saturday, reiterated that he will intervene in the issue and seek information. The action comes a day after the Congress ticked off Home Minister R.R. Patil, who is from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), saying he had no control over the police force, since policemen could openly speak against the minister of their department. Bagwe, Patil's deputy, is from the Congress. Congress leaders, who rallied behind Bagwe, said he was being denied a passport because of ego clashes between him and Singh. Singh enjoys Patil's support. The home minister is not keen on transferring Singh. The clash between Singh and Bagwe is also a tussle within the ruling Congress-NCP alliance. Patil and Chavan do not see eye to eye on policing matters with the former refusing to let the latter interfere in his department. The NCP denied this. "We believe every officer should work within the framework of discipline," said NCP spokesperson, Nawab Malik. "Often, as political workers, cases are filed against us over protests. In any case, there is no rivalry between departments, Chavan is the leader of the cabinet." Opposition jumps in The Shiv Sena on Saturday demanded a probe into all the cases against Minister of State for Home, Ramesh Bagwe. Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said the state should publicise the details of all 16 cases on the basis of which the police have denied him a passport. "It is a serious charge," she said. Activists and non-governmental organisations in Pune have also written to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Home Minister R R Patil making similar demands. Bagwe has been acquitted in 16 cases, but three are pending in court. In his affidavit submitted in 2009 while filing nomination papers for the Assembly polls, Bagwe said there are no cases pending in court against him.

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