In the second week of August this year, the Central Bureau of Investigation wrote to the Uttar Pradesh government seeking “appropriate action” against a bureaucrat and three top police officers. They were Unnao’s former district magistrate Aditi Singh, former superintendents of police Neha Pandey and Pushpanjali Devi, and former additional superintendent of police Ashtbhuja Singh.
The CBI accused the four officials of not acting against Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a former BJP legislator from Unnao who is currently serving a life sentence for kidnapping and raping a minor girl.
The Uttar Pradesh government, led by Ajay Bisht, popularly known as Adityanath, has not taken any discernible action against the three IPS officers so far. Instead, it handed one of them a comfortable posting just three weeks after getting the CBI’s letter. The Adityanath government also gave a clean chit to the bureaucrat, Aditi Singh, on September 29.
Sengar, 53, who was expelled from the BJP last August, was convicted in December 2019 of kidnapping and raping a minor girl. In March this year, he was also found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the death of the victim’s father. Along with him, two police sub inspectors were of criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
The CBI had found, the Wire in early September, that “the survivor, her mother, sister and deceased father had made fervent appeals to DM Aditi Singh as well as the two successive SPs, Neha Pandey and Pushpanjali Devi, seeking justice. All three had attempted instead to dilute the case against Sengar who had initially simply been booked for ‘kidnapping’.”
It further noted that “other than passing the buck between them, the DM and SP did nothing”.
Citing “highly placed sources”, the New Indian Express that the CBI had recommended “departmental inquiry” against the three police officers for “lackadaisical approach” and “intentional inaction”. The agency had made against the Uttar Pradesh in its July 2019 chargesheet in the rape case.
Yet, the profiles of Pandey and Devi on the Uttar Pradesh police’s portal show that they now hold higher ranks than they did in April 2018. So does Ashtbhuja Singh. This is also corroborated by reports in the Wire and the .
Pandey was the superintendent of police in Unnao between February 2, 2016 and October 26, 2017. The victim was raped by Sengar and his associates in June 2017. Her failed attempts to file a case against the former BJP MLA also during Pandey’s tenure. In December 2017, Pandey was appointed an in the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi. She is from the Rajasthan cadre of the 2009 IPS batch.
Devi succeeded Pandey in Unnao. She was the superintendent of police from October 27, 2017 to April 30, 2018. She is from the Manipur cadre of the 2006 IPS batch. She was out of Unnao soon after the rape case gained nationwide attention. Devi was elevated to the rank of in January this year. On September 8, three weeks after the CBI letter to the state government, she was posted as the DIG of Railway Police in Lucknow.
The CBI had alleged that as the Unnao SP, Pandey ignored the pleas of the 17-year-old rape survivor and Devi “didn’t pay any heed to prayers of the victim”, the Press Trust of India in September.
Ashtbhuja Singh’s profile is no different. He was Unnao’s additional superintendent of police when the minor was raped. He is now the of a PAC battalion in Fatehpur. He was recruited in the State Police Service in 1999, and promoted to the IPS cadre in 2019. According to the PTI report, the CBI believed that Singh “didn’t take adequate action on the complaints against Sengar”.
Aditi Singh, who is from the Uttar Pradesh cadre of the 2009 IAS batch, is an interesting case. The CBI said that as the district magistrate, from January 24, 2017 to October 25, 2017, she didn’t take any substantial action despite multiple letters from the victim about her plight. After leaving Unnao, Singh was made an additional commissioner in the Commercial Tax department in Noida for six months. In April 2018, she was made the of Hapur, a position she still occupies.
On September 29, the day the Dalit girl brutalised by four upper caste Thakur men in Hathras died, and reported that the Adityanth government had given a clean chit to Aditi Singh. It said the CBI’s report against Singh was “baseless” and “false”, since the victim had never gone to her with a complaint.
“The government believes the CBI didn’t seriously investigate the activities under Aditi Singh's tenure,” the Amar Ujala report states. “Action against Aditi Singh was recommended without giving her a chance to present her case, contrary to the principle of natural justice. The government said that Singh's administrative tenure has been very good.”
A press note issued on this matter claimed that “no complainant ever came to her office with a complaint related to Kuldeep Singh Sengar”, referring to Aditi Singh. It added that the CBI investigation noted wrong dates; Aditi Singh had received the first complaint in the matter on the Integrated Grievance Redressal System portal on October 19, 2017 which she passed on to the superintendent of police for further action. She was transferred from Unnao on October 26.
The news did not appear in the English media.
The Adityanath government’s claim does not reconcile with those made by the victim and her family. According to a in the Print, the victim had approached the police in August 2017 to lodge a rape case against Sengar. The police, she alleged, did not do so.
An FIR against Sengar was only filed eight months later in April 2018, after the victim tried to immolate herself outside the chief minister’s residence in Lucknow, protesting police inaction.
Newslaundry contacted Uttar Pradesh’s additional chief secretary, Awanish Awasthi, for comment. He wouldn’t answer our questions, however. “If there is a response, we will give it formally and officially,” he said.
Newslaundry spoke with Surya Pratap Singh, a retired bureaucrat and the spokesperson for the Tribal Army, about this matter. “The crux is this: the Yogi government wanted to protect Sengar. The Yogi government wanted to protect Chinmayanand. The Yogi government wants to protect the culprits in Hathras,” he said.
He pointed out the CBI’s recommendation was not legally binding on the state government. “However, they are very important,” he added. “It is a preliminary report in which the CBI indicated that these officers were at fault. The government should have instituted a departmental inquiry. Let the inquiry officer go into the details rather than exonerating them right in the beginning. It shows that the government is biased and favouring those who were protecting the culprits.”
Service rules dictate that a bureaucrat can be denied promotion if they have been convicted in a criminal case and jailed for at least 24 hours or if they have been awarded a major punishment after a departmental inquiry.
“Just a recommendation from the CBI cannot stop a promotion,” Surya Pratap Singh explained. “There are a large number of cases where the Supreme Court has recommended action against bureaucrats and the state government has not taken any action.”
The former bureaucrat argued that rather than being accountable to the people, the bureaucracy was now accountable to the “oppressor”. “There were times when bureaucrats wouldn’t listen to the connivance of their political masters,” he added. “But things have changed now. Bureaucrats today want to save their position. They do whatever the government wants them to do.”
UPDATE: The report has been updated with additional information about Aditi Singh's case.
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