An officer and a govt: Now facing dismissal, Satish Verma, IIT graduate and Gujarat-cadre IPS, with a history of run-ins

The week-long stay by the Supreme Court on his dismissal from service by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs marks yet another turn in Gujarat-care IPS officer Satish Verma’s career with its frequent run-ins with the government.

An IIT Delhi graduate and Bihar native who was part of the 1986 IPS batch, the 60-year-old joins other Gujarat-cadre police officers who similarly ran foul of the Narendra Modi administration, starting from his time as CM of the state – including Rahul Sharma, Rajnish Rai, Sanjiv Bhatt, R B Sreekumar, Kuldip Sharma etc.

The dismissal order was issued against Verma on August 30, a month ahead of his superannuation. If implemented, it can lead to him losing retirement benefits as well as being disqualified for any future employment with the government.

One of the first controversies involving Verma dates back to 1998 when he, along with Gujarat-cadre IPS officers Atul Karwal and P K Jha, was accused of assaulting sitting BJP MLA and lawyer Yatin Oza during a public protest in Ahmedabad.

In 2002, when the state was smouldering after the riots, Verma was transferred to Ahmedabad to take charge of the worst-hit areas of Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gam and Gulberg Society, as part of a major IPS reshuffle effected by former Punjab Police chief K P S Gill, who was brought in to control the violence. Known as a ‘tough cop’, Verma took on the gangs of Porbandar.

In 2005-2006, Verma was transferred to a Special Reserve Police Training Centre in Junagadh, in what was considered a “punishment posting” for IPS officers, soon after he ordered the arrest of then BJP MLA Shankar Chaudhary in a 2002 riot case in which two Muslim youths were killed. The DIG (Border Range) at the time, he was inducted into a committee set up at the direction of the Supreme Court to review closed riot cases.

In 2010-11, Verma had his biggest brush with the Modi-led state government following the killing of Ishrat Jahan. He was part of the SIT constituted by the Gujarat High Court to look into the encounter, and it held that the shootout that led to the death of the young Mumbai-based woman and three others was a “premeditated” custodial killing. In November 2011, Verma filed an affidavit in the court stating that several witnesses were being forced to retract their testimonies.

Based on the SIT’s report, the High Court entrusted the investigation of the case to the CBI in December 2011, directing that it should avail of Verma’s services.

In June 2012, Verma approached the High Court saying the state government had ordered an inquiry against him headed by then Vadodara Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana (he recently quit as Delhi police chief) accusing him of seizing a hard disk from a forensic lab containing evidence pertaining to the Ishrat Jahan encounter which, he said, had been concealed by the lab till then.

By then, Verma had been transferred from his posting as Joint Commissioner, Traffic, to the Junagadh Police Training Centre again.

In 2013, on the basis of the SIT and then the CBI’s probe, four IPS officers were charesheeted – P P Pandey, D G Vanzara, G L Singhal and Rajinder Kumar.

Verma continued to follow the Ishrat Jahan case. In 2016, a special CBI court granted him permission to get a certified copy of the first chargesheet in the case, after Verma pleaded that he believed “a serious and concerted attempt is being made to cause miscarriage of justice, by attempting to negate or weaken the evidences collected in the investigation”.

The CBI appealed against the order before the High Court, which overturned the CBI court’s ruling.

In his petition before the Supreme Court questioning his dismissal by the Centre, Verma accused the Gujarat government of “retaliatory action”, citing the reopening of an old case against him.

In 2012, as he probed the Ishrat Jahan case, a police encounter during his period as Porbandar SP, of Jasu Gagan Shiyal in 1996, was revived after the Gujarat High Court directed re-opening of the case. In October 2013, the Supreme Court stayed Verma’s arrest in this even as the investigation continued.

In 2014, following Vigilance clearance, Verma was posted as Chief Vigilance Officer in North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), Shillong, a CPSE under the Ministry of Power (MoP).

Within three months, the Gujarat government issued a charge memo against him, citing “delay or lapse in joining duty” at the Junagadh training centre.

During his 2014-2016 tenure at NEEPCO too, Verma ran foul of the government after his investigations alleged financial and administrative irregularities and improprieties against the management of NEEPCO, and named Union minister Kiren Rijiju among others.

In this time at NEEPCO, Verma faced at least three more charge memos, these issued by the Union government – in May 2016, August 2018 over a media interview, and in September 2018 for alleged delay in dispatching Vigilance reports.

Verma challenged all these departmental chargesheets before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).

In 2015, Verma was superceded even as the rest of his batch mates were promoted as Additional DGP.

Verma states in his petition before the Supreme Court that he was in the process of filing more reports with respect to Vigilance investigations in NEEPCO, when the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet in July 2016 issued orders curtailing his tenure and transferred him laterally to the CRPF. He says this was “intended to prevent / obstruct the dispatch of (his) reports”.

Verma was eventually transferred to the post of Principal / IGP, Central Training College, CRPF, Coimbatore, in October 2017.

In its dismissal order, the Centre has charged him with giving statements to media on the Ishrat Jahan encounter in 2016, stating that he “spoke unauthorizedly on the matters which were not within the sphere of his duties at NEEPCO”. The Centre said such statements by him “had the effect of an adverse criticism of action of the Central Government and the State Government, which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the State Government, and which is also capable of affecting the relationship of India with a neighbouring country”.

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