Mumbai: Police try to sweep cleaner out of his job and home

Oct 27, 2018, 09:47 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

44-year-old sweeper takes the police authorities to court after they sack and try to evict him, claiming his childhood home is an illegal structure

Mumbai: Police try to sweep cleaner out of his job and home
Solanki outside the disputed shanty in the Dadar West police compound

Mohan Solanki, 44, served the police for 26 years, and before him, his father had dedicated half his life to the force, before dying at his post in 1991. And yet, over the past decade, the department tried to evict him from his childhood home, and when that failed, they sacked him from his job as police sweeper.

In his fight for justice, Solanki has now dragged the State DGP and Mumbai Commissioner of Police, along with the State ACS (Home), the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT). Interestingly, before the matter could come up for hearing, Addn DGP (admn) Dr Pradnya Sarvade issued an order on October 19, withdrawing his dismissal order and reinstating Solanki in the department. However, Solanki wants to continue his fight for justice in the MAT.

Solanki told mid-day, "I am yet to receive any intimation from the Commissioner of Police's office asking me to resume duty. My late father resided in the shanty and, as per his pension records, the house has existed since 1958 in the pension record."

He added, "I have been getting a monthly salary of Rs 14,000 for sweeping Dadar police station, but since last January, I have not earned anything. My wife does domestic work to manage our two sons' education and daily expenses."

Facts of the case
Solanki in his petition before MAT (mid-day has a copy) stated that on April 5, 1991, he was appointed as a safai kamgar by the office of Commissioner of Police on compassionate grounds, post the demise of his father Mangal Solanki, who had earlier served on the same post. His father had resided at room no. 2, a shanty inside Dadar police station compound since 1958. Solanki claims that he was born and brought up in the same house, and is in possession of a receipt from a survey conducted by authorities under the Slum Rehabilitation Act.

However, the police department moved proceedings against him, alleging that the shanty was an illegal structure encroaching on government land. The department accused him of fraudulently making documents such as ration and voter cards with the shanty's address. The force also alleged that he had not applied for official quarters and was claiming house rent allowance while living in the shanty.

The BMC then issued a demolition order on the behest of the police, but the Bombay High Court issued a stay order against it. Strangely, as Solanki would learn later, the land does not even belong to the police. He filed an application under the Right To Information (RTI) Act and discovered that the police station and residential shelters are situated on land belonging to the Collector's office (City). As such, neither the BMC nor the police have any locus standi in the matter.

Police action and U-turn
Solanki was chargesheeted on February 17, 2010, under that flimsy charge that he was unauthorisedly and illegally residing there by forging documents. The said chargesheet was issued not by the competent authority — collector's office — but by the Inquiry Officer (IO), the then senior investigator at Dadar police station.

The chargesheet was issued under the Bombay Police Rules, 1956, which is not applicable in this case, as the applicant is civil staff, and hence governed by the Maharashtra Civil Services (MCS) Rules. Furthermore, the IO also took up the role of 'Presenting Officer' (prosecutor of sorts) in the inquiry. "To say the least, this is an example of the accuser turning judge," read Solanki's plea.

Seven years later, on January 27, 2017, Solanki lost his job when DCP Zone 5 issued an impugned order, imposing the penalty of 'removal from service'. Bizarrely, while the chargesheet was filed under the Mumbai Police Rules, the order was issued under the MCS rules. Solanki appealed against it, but Addn DGP Sarvade rejected his plea. Solanki then moved the MAT for justice earlier this year.

MAT asked the respondents to reply to Solanki's plea, but they are yet to do so. Meanwhile, on October 19, Addn DGP Sarvade issued an order directing that Solanki's dismissal be withdrawn and he be reinstated as sweeper in the department. Further, directions were given to initiate a fresh departmental inquiry under the MCS Rules.

Will continue fight
Advocate Rajeshwar Panchal, representing Solanki, said, "The police accused Solanki of encroaching on government land being a government employee, but this does not amount to any form of misconduct. Also the HC has already given a stay on demolition, but the department is still keen on evicting Solanki from a shanty that has existed for over six decades."

"Though Solanki has been reinstated, we will proceed with the matter, which is coming up for hearing on November 15. We will demand for suitable compensation and quashing of any departmental probe," added Panchal.

Despite repeated attempts to contact Dr Pradnya Sarvade, ADG (Admn) , she did not respond to mid-day's requests for a comment.

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