Durga Shakti Nagpal, 28, was removed ostensibly for ordering the demolition of a mosque being built illegally on government land. But political parties and other IAS officers say she was "punished" by the state government.
The 2009-batch IAS officer, who was posted in the state just six months ago, came to the limelight over her crackdown on the sand mining mafia rampant along the Yamuna and Hindon rivers in western Uttar Pradesh.
In recent months, Ms Nagpal had seized nearly 300 trolleys of sand being illegally mined from the Yamuna river bed and slapped a fine of around Rs two crore on the accused. She had also formed special flying squads to check the menace.
On Saturday, Ms Nagpal ordered the demolition of a mosque which was being illegally built on government land. The Supreme Court has said that religious structures on government land should be treated as encroachments and brought down.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said removing Ms Nagpal was an "administrative decision", as her order to demolish the mosque could cause communal tension, especially during the month of Ramzan. But after being widely criticised, the Chief Minister today promised to review the order.
The IAS officers' association in UP says there is no communal tension and no report was sought on the situation on the ground, as is the procedure, before the officer was removed.
The officers claim Ms Nagpal was removed at the instance of a local Samajwadi Party leader and Lok Sabha candidate Narendra Bhatti, who had allegedly complained to the leadership that the crackdown on the mining mafia was hurting political interests.
The young officer had reportedly ruffled quite a few feathers last week after she seized nearly two dozen dumpers engaged in illegal quarrying and arrested 15 offenders. She had spoken of threats from the powerful mining lobbies in Uttar Pradesh. "We have acted against these people, we face implicit threats," Ms Nagpal had said earlier.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party accused the government of protecting the sand mafia. "This is plain Goonda Raj (rule of the jungle). This government shields the mafia and punishes officers trying to act against the mafia," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.
Uttar Pradesh's acting Chief Secretary said: "She is a young officer and many say this is a harsh decision. I will discuss this with the Chief Minister and order a full inquiry."