As if 12 cases in 15 years are not enough, now Gujarat cadre former IAS officer Pradip Sharma has now been sentenced to a month’s imprisonment for possessing a cell phone in Palara jail in Kutch.
A raid by local authorities reportedly discovered a cell phone in Pradeep Sharma’s barrack along with several numbers written on the wall of his bathroom space.
The district government pleader of Kutch, Kalpesh Goswami, confirmed that Judge N A Gadhvi, considering the prosecution’s arguments, convicted Sharma, sentencing him to one month in prison and a fine of Rs 200.
Pradip Jain is an IAS officer whose career trajectory twisted after he fell out with then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi over purely “personal” reasons. He is the brother of retired IPS officer Kuldeep Sharma. Pradeep Sharma and Narendra Modi who was then the Chief Minister reportedly fell apart in 2008. Till then, Pradeep Sharma was considered to be one of the most trusted officers of the Modi regime and talked of as a Modi confidant.
Pradip Sharma who was appointed the Kutch collector soon after the earthquake was in the good books of Chief Minister Narendra Modi who also plunged into electoral politics post 2001. Modi trusted Sharma and was very happy with the rehabilitation work that he was spearheading in Kutch till they fell apart for “personal reasons”.’
The first FIR against Pradip Sharma was registered against him at CID Crime in the Rajkot zone for the Kutch land regularisation.
Thereafter, Pradeep Sharma has spent most of his time in jail. He was the municipal commissioner of Bhavnagar when there was a surprise raid in 2010 and before he was arrested, his laptop and some pen drives which reportedly had sensitive material was seized. Pradeep Sharma was subsequently suspended from service.
Pradeep Sharma was arrested for regularising a piece of encroached land in Kutch at very nominal cost thereby costing huge loss to the State Government.
. He was the Collector of Kutch between 2003 and 2006.
There had been other cases against him too like graft allegations and one Enforcement Directorate (ED) case on charges of money laundering.
It’s a dramatic fall for Sharma, a chemistry graduate who joined the Gujarat Administrative Service in 1981 as deputy collector. As another national daily reports, Sharma embarked on a promising career — in 1999, he was nominated to the IAS, with the seniority of 1994. He held positions as Jamnagar and Bhavnagar Municipal Commissioner and Collector of Rajkot and Kutch districts before everything went downhill.
The year 2008 marked the beginning of the end. He got off-side with the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government, with the first FIR lodged against him at CID Crime, Rajkot Zone, over reported irregularities in land allotment in Bhuj.
It was when he was lodged in Palara Jail that he courted a big controversy with the use of a mobile phone that was found on his barrack. That he was accused of getting the phone from a former cellmate sealed his fate — an FIR was registered under offences punishable under the IPC and Prisons Act.
The cases swelled over the years. Accusations of transferring money via hawala to various countries, including into accounts in the name of his wife and children. Charges of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 25 lakh from a private firm while he served as the managing director of Alcock Ashdown (Gujarat) Ltd, a state-owned company, between December 2008 and May 2009.
An FIR in 2014 following accusations of allotting a plot in 2004 to a private company by granting non-agricultural land permission at a discriminatory rate when he was the Kutch Collector.
Even after the Gujarat High Court released him on bail after 19 months in custody, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested him in a fresh case registered against him in Bhavnagar, reports outlined.
Darkness enveloped him to such an extent that he wasn’t allowed to witness his son’s wedding in the US through video conferencing.
In 2018, the Gujarat High Court released him on bail in the ACB case, stating the investigation was over, the charge sheet was out, and Sharma had already spent five months in custody for a crime that took place in 2008-09.
Pradeep Sharma’s lawyer Bharat Dholakia has said the estimated loss to the government allegedly caused by the retired IAS officer was just Rs 2.10 lakh. “How appropriate is it to send the (then) Collector to jail for such a small amount at a time when he was busy rebuilding the district after the earthquake? If the Collector’s order is found to have undervalued the land, there are provisions before the Revenue Department to enhance it… Sharma is being isolated and being discriminated against… There was an entire committee which approved the price-fixing and regularisation, and which was chaired by the Collector… The Revenue Department never challenged the order of regularisation (of land),” Dholakia was quoted as saying. “Most charges against Pradeep Sharma are politically motivated. He rubbed then Chief MInister Narendra Modi in a wrong manner and is hence paying for that. Now that CM Modi has become PM Modi, there seems no end to Pradeep Sharma’s problems”, an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre told Vibes of India.
Well, the latest story of a cell phone found from his barrack with several phone numbers written on the wall is just another addition.