The Central Bureau of Investigation is under pressure to hand over its highly sensitive Policy Division to the Gujarat police official whose name featured in the Ishrat Jahan encounter as well as the case involving the alleged spying on a woman architect when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state, highly placed officials said.

Arun Kumar Sharma, an India Police Service officer from the 1987 batch, was transferred to the CBI as one of its joint directors in April. But he is yet to be given any charge.

According to highly placed officials, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a clear signal to the CBI that Sharma should be given the charge of the Policy Division. But CBI director Anil Sinha, who is opposed to the idea, has refused to do this.

The CBI insiders see in Modi’s move an attempt to establish a direct channel with the supposedly autonomous investigative agency. “For a Prime Minister who has established his own direct link in different ministries through the secretary and joint secretary level officials bypassing ministers, it is only natural to try opening up a direct channel with the CBI bypassing its director,” said a CBI official.

Key functions

The Policy Division deals with all matters relating to policy, organisation, vigilance and security in the CBI, correspondence and liaison with the Prime Minister’s Office and government ministries, and implementing special programmes related to vigilance and anti-corruption. It is so important that the joint director in charge of this division is seen as the number two in the investigative agency. The JDP, as the joint director in-charge of the Policy Division is referred to, participates in high-level meetings with government ministries along with the CBI director.

At present, this division is under CBI joint director RS Bhatti, an IPS officer of the 1990 batch.  Both CBI Director Anil Sinha and Bhatti belong to the Bihar cadre.

“The Policy Division is so significant that only a joint director with some experience in the agency gets charge of it,” a senior CBI official said. "Sharma has never been to the CBI. Besides, his name has cropped up in some controversial cases. Questions would be raised if he is put in charge of the Policy Division."

Encounter case

Sharma’s name had appeared on a CD purporting to contain details of discussions between top Gujarat leaders and police officials to derail the investigations into the Gujarat police killing of Mumbai college student Ishrat Jahan in 2004. They claimed that she and the three men shot dead with her were on their way to Gujarat to kill Modi. The CD, which was submitted to the CBI by chargesheeted police officer GL Singhal, contained details of a meeting between Modi’s personal secretary GC Murmu, Sharma and a few other Gujarat ministers and policemen.

Sharma also featured in the claimed operation to illegally snoop on a young woman architect from Bangalore in 2009. The snooping had reportedly been ordered by minister of state for home Amit Shah for his “saheb”. Neither Amit Shah nor any of the police officials involved in the snooping operation has come out to explain who this “sahib” is.

According to a senior BJP official in Gujarat, Sharma was very close to Modi when he was the state chief minister. Before being appointed as the CBI joint director in April, he headed Ahmadabad Detection of Crime Branch as special commissioner, a post created for the first time.