Charu Deshpande case: Investigating officer transferred abruptly

For friends and well-wishers of Charudatta Deshpande who are still trying to come to terms with the scribe’s unexpected death earlier this year, the abrupt deputation of Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy SP) Deepak Devraj to the Police Training School in Dhulia has come as an unexpected blow. Devraj has been handling the probe to unravel the circumstances that compelled the 57-year-old which Deshpande, former corporate affairs and communications chief at Tata Steel, to take his life.

Interrupted: Journalists say the transfer came at a time when investigations were at a crucial stage and a breakthrough was expected. File pic

As concern and shock over the deputation mounted, the Thane SP insisted that investigations in the case would continue under Devraj, in spite of his move to the police training school. Charu was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his apartment in Vasai Gaon on June 28 (‘What drove Charu Deshpande, ex Tata Steel employee, to kill himself?’ MiD DAY, July 4).

Sources in the Thane rural police informed MiD DAY that Devraj was actually put on deputation to Dhulia some time in March 2013, but was not relieved then. On September 20, instructions were issued that he be shifted to Dhulia immediately. Soon after Deshpande’s demise, a delegate from Press Club, Mumbai had raised concerns about the manner in which he had ended his life, and demanded a high-level probe to ascertain the role of certain officials from Tata Steel. Since then, Devraj had been handling the case and he had even been to Jamshedpur to record statements of Tata Steel officials.

Doubts abound
“Why was the case then given to Devraj, if the department knew that he was being sent to Dhulia on deputation?” asked a journalist, who worked with Charu, adding, “Such a move only raises doubts in our minds over whether this was a deliberate attempt to derail the entire investigation. All we are demanding is justice for Charu,” he said.

Indrajeet Gupta, former editor of Forbes, said, “Investigations were at a crucial stage and we were expecting some kind of breakthrough. I would hope that this transfer would no way in hamper the progress of this investigation.”

“I am shocked and I hope that justice is done in Charu’s case,” said brother-in-law Mahesh Bhatkal.

Gurbir Singh, who is president of the Press Club of Mumbai, said, “The investigation is not yet over and this abrupt transfer is a matter of concern to us. Moreover, Devraj has been probing this case from the beginning and hence we have requested state Home Minister R R Patil to retain Devraj for the time being, until the case is brought to its logical conclusion.” Gurbir added, “The home minister has agreed to consider the option of retaining Devraj till the investigation is completed in Charu’s case.”

Anil Kumbhare, superintendent of police, Thane (rural), said, “We have not changed the investigating officer in the Charu Deshpande case, Dy SP Devraj will continue to handle the probe.”

Asked about his deputation in Dhulia, Kumbhare clarified, “Dy SP Devraj has been sent to Dhulia on promotion, and the order was passed a few months ago, but executed recently. He would report to work in Dhulia and return to Thane immediately to continue his probe in the Charu Deshpande case.”

Attempts made to contact Dy SP Devraj did not yield any result.  

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