JOBS ON SALE

The As­sam po­lice busts a mega job scam. Com­ing in the first year of CM Sar­bananda Sonowal’s gov­ern­ment, it’s also be­ing seen as a per­sonal victory for him

India Today - - NATION - By Kaushik Deka

OON JUNE 17, 2016, WITHIN THREE weeks of tak­ing charge as the chief min­is­ter of As­sam, Sar­bananda Sonowal sum­moned all the mem­bers of the As­sam Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (APSC) and pulled them up over the mul­ti­ple al­le­ga­tions that the com­mis­sion sells jobs for cash. The con­sti­tu­tional body’s chair­man, Rakesh Paul, re­sponded by say­ing that the chief min­is­ter had no au­thor­ity to in­struct him or in­ter­fere in his work. The APSC chair­man was right—the power to re­move the chair­man or the mem­bers of the pub­lic ser­vice com­mis­sion has been vested ex­clu­sively with the Pres­i­dent of In­dia.

The chief min­is­ter was forced to re­main a mute spec­ta­tor, but not for too long. Help came from Di­bru­garh, his home­town. On Oc­to­ber 25, 2016, Ang­shu­mita Go­goi, a den­tist, ap­proached the district su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice say­ing Nabakanta Patir, an as­sis­tant en­gi­neer with the town and coun­try plan­ning depart­ment in Di­bru­garh, had asked for Rs 10 lakh for a ‘con­firmed’ se­lec­tion by the APSC for a gov­ern­ment job. Go­goi had failed to se­cure a job in

an ear­lier at­tempt through the APSC. Two days later, the po­lice laid a trap and caught Patir red-handed with the cash. Patir’s ar­rest led to the ar­rest of Ma­mud Ali Choud­hury, PSO of APSC mem­ber Same­dur Rah­man, in Rangiya on Oc­to­ber 30, the chain of ar­rests fi­nally lead­ing up to Paul.

“Patir’s phone records re­vealed he was in reg­u­lar con­tact with Paul and Rah­man. We found text mes­sages he sent to the two de­tail­ing pay­ments from as­pir­ing can­di­dates,” says Ad­di­tional SP Surjit Singh Pane­sar, the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer in this case. On Novem­ber 4, Paul was ar­rested and, two days later, po­lice raids in his houses as well as on a print­ing press run by his brother Ra­jib Paul in Guwa­hati un­earthed an­swer scripts and ques­tion pa­pers of ex­am­i­na­tions con­ducted by the APSC. Sev­eral can­di­dates of the 2013 batch of As­sam civil ser­vice, As­sam po­lice ser­vice and other ser­vices had al­legedly writ­ten their an­swer scripts for the sec­ond time at Paul’s res­i­dence. The du­pli­cate an­swer sheets were printed at Paul’s brother’s press. The an­swer copies either had forged sig­na­tures of the in­vig­i­la­tor or had sig­na­tures of in­vig­i­la­tors who were not on duty on that par­tic­u­lar date.

Based on the foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion of these copies of an­swer sheets, the As­sam po­lice on May 3 ar­rested three of­fi­cers—Bhaskar­jy­oti Dev Sharma, Bhaskar Dutta and Am­rit Sharma— who had sat for the APSC ex­am­i­na­tion in 2013. They had al­legedly sub­mit­ted du­pli­cate an­swer scripts. As­sam po­lice DGP Mukesh Sa­hay says that the three were picked up af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors found two sets of their an­swer scripts at Paul’s home.

The in­ves­ti­gat­ing team then seized the an­swer scripts of all the 241 can­di­dates who had cleared the 2013 exam and the 180 who had cleared the 2014 exam. Based on a scru­tiny of these scripts, 25 serv­ing As­sam gov­ern­ment of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing the son of for­mer Congress min­is­ter Nil­a­m­oni Sen Deka, were in­ter­ro­gated at the of­fice of the As­sam po­lice spe­cial branch in Guwa­hati on June 9. “Apart from be­ing in­ter­ro­gated, these of­fi­cers were asked to ap­pend their sig­na­tures and write a short note on a blank sheet. Foren­sic lab­o­ra­to­ries out­side the state will com­pare the pa­pers with the hand­writ­ing in their ex­am­i­na­tion an­swer scripts,” Sa­hay said.

Paul, who had been serv­ing as a no­tary in a district court, was made a mem­ber of the APSC in 2008 by the Tarun Go­goi-led Congress gov­ern­ment. He was el­e­vated as chair­man on De­cem­ber 7, 2013. The same month, Mukul Saikia, an SP of the vig­i­lance and anti-cor­rup­tion depart­ment of the As­sam po­lice, sub­mit­ted a report say­ing that the APSC chair­man was run­ning a “job bazaar” and had man­aged to ac­quire flats in Guwa­hati, Kolkata and Ben­galuru af­ter be­com­ing an APSC mem­ber. The state gov­ern­ment did not act on the report. In­stead, the SP was trans­ferred out.

On March 15, 2015, the CBI for­warded a com­plaint against Paul to the As­sam po­lice’s vig­i­lance and anti-cor­rup­tion wing. The com­plainant had al­leged that Paul ma­nip­u­lated the records of the APSC re­cruit­ment process and had been col­lect­ing “Rs 10 to 40 lakh” from can­di­dates. But noth­ing hap­pened.

A few months later, Akhil Go­goi, a so­cial ac­tivist, filed a PIL seek­ing a thor­ough in­quiry against the al­leged dis­pro­por­tion­ate wealth of Paul and into the func­tion­ing of APSC. The Gauhati High Court, on Oc­to­ber 15, 2015, or­dered a CBI probe into the as­sets of Paul, his wife Su­nanda, brother Ra­jeev and driver San­jay Saha. The HC also asked the state gov­ern­ment to in­sti­tute a ju­di­cial in­quiry into the anom­alies in the APSC. Paul moved the Supreme Court and on Novem­ber 21, 2015, ob­tained a stay on the high court’s or­der.

When ques­tioned about the al­le­ga­tions against Paul whom he had ap­pointed, for­mer As­sam chief min­is­ter Tarun Go­goi blamed the BJP gov­ern­ment for politi­cis­ing the is­sue. He even chal­lenged the gov­ern­ment to hand over the case to the CBI. “The BJP has been selec­tive in its drive against cor­rup­tion. The gov­ern­ment is silent and slow on scams in which BJP min­is­ters are in­volved,” Go­goi said.

De­spite his fall from grace, Paul has re­mained de­fi­ant, even threat­en­ing a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cial dur­ing an in­ter­ro­ga­tion at the cen­tral jail in Guwa­hati where he is cur­rently lodged.

Mean­while, the Pres­i­dent has made a ref­er­ence to the Supreme Court on the As­sam gov­ern­ment’s pe­ti­tion for the re­moval of Paul as APSC chair­man. The Sonowal gov­ern­ment had al­ready sus­pended him on Novem­ber 26. The mat­ter would now be viewed by the Supreme Court, af­ter which it will re­vert to the Pres­i­dent’s of­fice with an opin­ion. “That the Pres­i­dent has made a ref­er­ence to the Supreme Court means that he is sat­is­fied that a prima fa­cie case has been made out against the APSC chair­man,” says Bi­jan Ma­ha­jan, spe­cial pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor, who is also a BJP spokesper­son.

But Sonowal is not wor­ried about the apex court’s de­ci­sion nor does he see these de­vel­op­ments as a game of one-up­man­ship. “It’s not a per­sonal is­sue. Our gov­ern­ment has al­ready de­clared zero tol­er­ance against cor­rup­tion. The prob­ing agen­cies have full free­dom to act against the cor­rupt within the am­bit of law,” he says.

“It’s not a per­sonal is­sue. Our gov­ern­ment has al­ready de­clared zero tol­er­ance against cor­rup­tion” SAR­BANANDA SONOWAL As­sam chief min­is­ter

AN­SWER TO EV­ERY­THING APSC chair­man Rakesh Paul af­ter his ar­rest

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