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Panel to study Jain commission report on Rajiv killing

George Iype in New Delhi

The United Front government has decided to set up an inter-ministerial committee of secretaries to study the Jain Commission's interim report on the assassination of the late Congress president and prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Government sources disclosed on Monday that the committee will consist of secretaries from the ministries of external affairs, defence, home and the cabinet secretariat.

The committee of secretaries will be similar to the one that is now screening the report of the Central Bureau of Investigations' probe into the Bofors gun scandal.

Based on the recommendations of the committee, the government will draft an action taken report and submit the Jain Commission report in parliament either in its winter session beginning November or the budget session next year.

The commission, headed by Justice Milap Chand Jain, submitted its report to the government on August 28. Instead of tabling the report in Parliament as demanded by the Congress, the government has decided to scrutinise the report further, in an apparent bid to buy time.

The report, going over a thousand pages, is completely silent on the conspiracy aspect of the late Congress president's assassination. But it reveals that the protective cover provided to Gandhi was ineffective, making the assasination easier.

It is placed considerable focus on the threat to Rajiv Gandhi's life and the security cover that the government gave him. It also details the important roles played by the two governments, headed by then prime ministers V P Singh and Chandra Shekhar, from 1989 to 1991.

The report consists of depositions of more than 70 important politicians and bureaucrats that build up the sequence of events and circumstances leading to the assassination of Gandhi.

In her deposition, Rajiv's widow Sonia Gandhi has alleged that the grossly inadequate security provided to her husband was "virtually an open invitation to liquidate him... The dilution of security was politically motivated, carried out with the intention of increasing his threat perception of reducing his level of mass contact," she has charged.

Sources said Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and Home Minister Indrajit Gupta who have already a held a round of discussions on the report have concluded that an objective analysis of the report could be done only by a committee of secretaries.

The secretaries are expected to cull out observations and criticisms from the Jain Commission's report which has alleged that denial of some vital documents by the government has led to an indiscriminate delay to the probe.

Once the secretaries submit their recommendations to the government, it is likely that the home ministry will argue in its action taken report that the government could not provide what it felt was "privileged information."

But many believe the government's sudden decision to set up a committee of secretaries to screen the Commission's report is a deft ploy to considerably prolong it being made public. The prime minister fears that the revelations in the report might upset the equations between the UF coalition partners as it has accused the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam of encouraging Tamil militant groups in Tamil Nadu.

There is already speculation that the observations made in the report against the DMK has strained the relations between the Congress and the Tamil Maanila Congress vis-a-vis the DMK.

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