Maharashtra: Suspended forest officer M S Reddy arrested in connection with suicide of RFO

Reddy, an officer of the rank of Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF), was arrested from his official residence in Nagpur on Thursday and has been remanded in police custody for two days.

SENIOR Indian Forest Service officer M S Reddy, who was earlier suspended in connection with the suicide of forest officer Deepali Chavan of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), was arrested on Thursday by Amravati Rural Police.

Chavan, who was Range Forest Officer at Harisal in MTR, had shot herself with a service pistol on March 25. In a suicide note she had left behind, she alleged severe mental harassment by her senior officer, Deputy Commissioner of Forest Vinod Shivkumar. In the note, she had also said that MTR Field Director M S Reddy had failed to take action against Shivkumar despite her complaint to Reddy about Shivkumar’s misconduct with her. She had also said that she felt that Reddy wouldn’t take action against a fellow IFS officer.

Reddy, an officer of the rank of Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (APCCF), was arrested from his official residence in Nagpur on Thursday and has been remanded in police custody for two days.

A press note issued by the police stated, “Reddy has been found prima facie responsible for abetment of Deepali Chavan’s suicide as per the contents of the suicide note, in which she has written about mental harassment by Reddy and his inaction against DCF Vinod Shivkumar, forcing her to commit suicide. Hence he was arrested on Thursday.”

In the suicide note, however, Chavan had also said that only Shivkumar be held responsible for her taking the extreme step. Chavan had also said a few good words for Reddy, saying he was always supportive and she felt safe when he was around.

Chavan’s suicide had generated a lot of political heat, with Teosa MLA and State Minister for Women and Child Development Yashomati Thakur and Amravati Independent MP Navneet Rana demanding Reddy’s arrest. Reddy was later put under suspension pending inquiry.

The Forest department has instituted its own departmental inquiry, which is yet to be completed. Another inquiry has been instituted by the state government under senior IPS officer Pradnya Sarode, whose report is also awaited.

Meanwhile, the Forest department has appointed Jayoti Banerjee as the new MTR Field Director. Asked if a woman officer’s appointment was aimed at sending a symbolic message, Principal Secretary (Forest) Milind Mhaiskar said, “Her promotion was due and we had to give her a field posting. So, we appointed her as MTR field director. Any symbolism behind this can be seen as purely coincidental.”

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