“I made it clear that I did not receive any money from any person,” says Ashutosh Shukla.
The CBI has questioned DGP (Elections) Ashutosh Shukla in connection with the sensational gutkha scam. The quizzing followed an entry of payment made to the Commissioner of Police when Mr. Shukla headed the Chennai Police for 25 days in May 2016 during the then Assembly elections.
According to sources in the agency, Mr. Shukla was examined on April 8 in his office at the Prison Department headquarters where he was the DGP of Prisons. Parrying questions on whether other IPS officers whose names figured in the case and their premises raided were also examined, a CBI official said all those concerned would be interrogated before the second charge sheet is filed.
Confirming to The Hindu that he was examined by the CBI, Mr. Shukla said he was informed by DGP/Head of Police Force T.K. Rajendran that the CBI wanted to question him and that a convenient place and time had to be finalised. Since he is covered under the Z-scale security for his role in the Imam Ali operation, it was decided that the CBI could meet him at the prison headquarters.
“They wanted to examine me regarding the entry [of payment made in the book of accounts] to the Commissioner of Police. I made it clear that I did not receive any money from any person. No summon was issued to me and the Deputy Superintendent of Police, CBI, informed that I am being examined as a witness…the discussion hardly lasted 15 minutes,” Mr. Shukla said on Saturday.
Asked what action he took on the sale of gutkha in the city, Mr. Shukla said he told investigators that his time as the Police Commissioner was focused on election-related work and no information either on the scam or sale of the banned substance was brought to his notice. A couple of days after the CBI examined him, the Election Commission of India posted him as DGP (Elections) to supervise the conduct of the Lok Sabha and the by-elections.
Going by the statement of the MDM brand of gutkha partner to the Income Tax department, ₹60 lakh was paid to the Commissioner of Police, Chennai, on three dates – 21/04/2016, 20/05/2016 and 20/06/2016.
The scam, exposed by The Hindu in June 2017, pertains to the alleged involvement of top politicians and police officials among others, in taking bribes to the tune of ₹39.91 crore for facilitating the storage, transport and sale of the banned commodity in Chennai city. Before filing the first charge sheet, the Anti-Corruption Unit-III of the CBI arrested six persons, including three officials.