Former governor and CBI chief Ashwani Kumar was found hanging in his Shimla house on Wednesday, Shimla superintendent of police Mohit Chawla said. He was 69. Police suspect death by suicide but have made no formal statement.
Retired police officer AP Singh, who succeeded Kumar at the CBI, described Kumar’s death “absolutely shocking”.
“It’s absolutely shocking. I have worked closely with him as a special director. He was a gentleman. Never lost his temper. I always found him very pleasant, soft spoken; he never ever said a word to anybody in a raised voice,” AP Singh said about his mild-mannered predecessor at the CBI.
Kumar, a 1973 batch officer of the Indian Police Service, headed the Central Bureau of Investigation from August 2008 to November 2010.
Three years later, the Manmohan Singh government appointed him as Nagaland governor in March 2013, provoking howls of protest from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Kumar was the first CBI chief to be appointed to a gubernatorial office. A few months later, he was also appointed Manipur till December 2013.
Ashwani Kumar, however, had to step down from the Nagaland Raj Bhavan weeks after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the 2014 general elections and started pushing out governors appointed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. Kumar was one of the first to go.
It was during his tenure as the CBI chief that the investigation agency arrested Union home minister Amit Shah in July 2010 in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Shah was then the BJP general secretary and minister in the Gujarat government led by chief minister Narendra Modi. Veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram was then the Union home minister.
The 22 accused who faced trial in this case were acquitted in December 2018. In a controversial verdict, the judge called it a politically-motivated case designed to implicate political leaders such as Shah.
Ashwani Kumar had started out as a young IPS officer in Himachal Pradesh where he was, back in 1985, the superintendent of police of Shimla district. It was during this assignment that he was selected in the newly-created Special Protection Group responsible for the security of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
He was in the SPG from 1985 to 1990 in various capacities including that of Assistant Director in the Prime Minister’s Office. It was during this tenure that he came in close contact with the Gandhi family.