The grilling of IB officials by the CBI in connection with the Ishrat Jahan encounter case smacks of vendetta against the Gujarat government. The myopic political regime in Delhi has not realised the significance of destroying institutions. Only Pakistan and LeT would have the last laugh, says Arun Jaitley.
The misuse of the Central Bureau of Investigation by the United Progressive Alliance government has been repeatedly commented upon. This misuse is essentially for a political purpose. Not only has this seriously damaged the credibility of the CBI but has also lowered the level of professionalism in the organisation. The gathering of evidence during investigation has seriously suffered. Investigations are increasingly becoming tainted with a political motive. The conviction rate in CBI cases has declined.
The news reports that the CBI has been interrogating senior officers of the Intelligence Bureau assumes significance in this regard. The case in which the Intelligence Bureau officials have been investigated relates to the alleged encounter of Ishrat Jahan in Ahmedabad in 2004.
Media reports and court documents available with regard to this case reveal that the IB through its intelligence gathering network including electronic surveillance received information that a Lashkar-e-Tayiba module was active in western India in 2004 with the object of assassinating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In accordance with its practice, the IB alerted the Gujarat police. It can be safely presumed that the IB was also a part of the operation in which the four activists of the module were intercepted, and killed in an encounter with the police and security agencies. The Lashkar in its Lahore-based mouth-piece Ghazwa Times admitted to her being an LeT activist, paid homage to her martyrdom and took umbrage in removing her veil by the Indian police.
A Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Gujarat high court by Ishrat’s mother. The Union of India was also arrayed as a respondent in the said petition. The government of India's affidavit in the said case strongly contested the contentions of the petition.
It asserted that its agencies received intelligence inputs which were shared with the state government. All available evidence with the central government established that this was an LeT module which was active with the devious purpose of wanting to liquidate a prominent political leader in India. The national investigative agency was given an opportunity to interrogate the Pakistani American David Hedley who was amongst the masterminds behind the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai. Hedley is believed to have told his interrogators that Ishrat was recruited by top Lashkar commander Muzammil and was a key Lashkar operative.
The political regime in Delhi saw an opportunity in the alleged encounter in which this LeT module was liquidated. The government of India decided to change its affidavit before the Gujarat high court. The new affidavit almost disowned the intelligence inputs. The deponent of the affidavit states, "I say that it should be clear to all that such inputs do not constitute conclusive proof and it is for the government and the state police to act on such inputs. The central government is in no way concerned with such action nor does it condone or endorse any unjustified or excessive action".
This assertion of the central government was politically motivated. It smelt an opportunity in the PIL in the Ishrat case. The volte face of the central government damages the consistent stand of the government of India that whereas ‘public order’ and 'law and order' are a state subject, the battle against terrorism deals with the security of India and national sovereignty. It is therefore a shared responsibility of the Centre and the state.
Acting in tandem with government of India, the then banned Lashkar-e-Tayiba in its fresh incarnation the Jammat-e-Dawa disowned its earlier owning up of this module and issued an apology to Ishrat family for having called her an LeT cadre. The investigation of the case was handed over to the CBI.
Over the years, the political strategy of the Congress party in Gujarat is hardly guided by its state leadership. It has been guided by a few disgruntled police officials who have been accused of indiscipline by the state government. There is reason to believe that having shed all its professionalism, the CBI in most Gujarat cases is being guided by this disgruntled group of state policemen.
I have examined the documents of some of the sensitive cases in last few years which have been instituted against key BJP leaders in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The introduction of the name of the former home minister of Gujarat in two cases was based on negligible evidence. When the director of prosecution commented upon inadequacy of the evidence, the file noting shows that the senior CBI officials commented that the addition of Amit Shah as an accused was necessary if the CBI was to reach the chief minister.
Investigating officers putting this noting and those approving this noting deserve to be sacked from the government, altogether and not merely removed from the CBI. In the recent case against the former Rajasthan home minister Gulab Kataria the charge-sheet reads like fiction.
Another charge-sheet against Rajendra Rathore a former Rajasthan minister was judicially commented upon as being based upon no evidence. In all these cases the political leaders targeted were easily released on bail. Regimes are not immortal. I do hope one day a commission of inquiry will investigate the functioning of the CBI, its politicisation and all these above cases.
Coming back to the Ishrat case, the CBI arrested some officials of the Gujarat police. They were released on bail since the charge-sheet was not filed within the statutory period. Since the participant in the liquidation of the module was a Central intelligence agency, the CBI has now decided to uncover the functioning of the Intelligence Bureau. The cost of the Modi-phobia will now be paid by the IB. Its senior officials will be grilled. They will be asked details of their intelligence collection methodologies. They could be questioned on the legalities of the means deployed by them to collect intelligence. They will be asked questions with regard to the authenticity of the intelligence which is collected.
Motives could be attributed to them for having collected material against the LeT and passed it to the Gujarat police. Only Pakistan and LeT would have the last laugh. The myopic political regime in Delhi has not realised the significance of destroying institutions. Harass the Gujarat government even if it means destroying India's security apparatus, the object of the Congress party is clear.
Arun Jaitley is leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.