Rajasthan Minister Mahipal Maderna sacked in Bhanwari Devi Case

Rajasthan Water Resources Minister Mahipal Maderana was Sunday sacked by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot over his alleged involvement in the disappearance of a nurse more than a month ago, official sources said. Under widespread criticism that he was not acting against an influential ministerial colleague from the Jat community, the Congress chief minister finally bowed to public pressure. Maderana was among those named in a First Information Report (FIR) after nurse Bhanwari Devi remained absent from duty from Aug 25, confined herself to her home for a few days and then vanished without trace Sep 1. Rumours quickly gripped the state that she allegedly featured in a CD in a "compromising position" with the minister, who repeatedly denied he had anything to do with her. Under all-round attack, the Rajasthan government ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the case after the Rajasthan Police was pulled up for allegedly not taking on Maderana. The sources said the recommendation to remove Maderana from the cabinet was forwarded to Governor Shivraj Patil, who signed the orders in Chandigarh Sunday evening. Industry and Excise Minister Rajendra Pareek of Sikar was given additional charge of Maderana's department. The Rajasthan High Court Oct 13 asked police to explain why they had not questioned those named in the case.
The court sought the explanation when counsel for the nurse's husband Amarchand objected to Maderana not being questioned by police though his name figured in the FIR covering charges of rape, kidnap and murder. The next hearing in the case is due Monday. informed sources said the chief minister initially asked Maderana to quit but he declined. Jats are a dominant force in at least 40-50 of Rajasthan's 200 assembly constituencies. The additional chief judicial magistrate in Jodhpur Sep 24 directed the police to probe Maderana's role under sections 376 (rape), 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. Police have arrested a government contractor from Jodhpur's Bilada area and had detained three youths from Sikar district but let them off for want of evidence. During interrogation, the name of Shahbuddin, a mechanic from Pipad area here, also came up. An officer said he is suspected to be the key link who can lead the police to the woman but he too has vanished.