The Ishrat Jahan case is a classic illustration of how an investigation agency and an intelligence outfit can come into conflict. It is widely believed there are sharp differences between the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) over the role of Rajinder Kumar, an IB officer of rank only one level below the director, in the case. Rajinder Kumar was once posted in Gandhinagar and is suspected to have a connection to the extra-judicial killing of 19-year-old Ishrat and three young men by the Gujarat police.
The Union home secretary reportedly held a sort-it-out meeting with the chiefs of the two agencies. The outcome is not known. But the CBI, which is investigating the case, seems to have an open mind on Rajinder Kumar’s involvement: it has not indicted him in its first chargesheet. The Gujarat police had made out that Ishrat and the three men shot dead with her were terrorists on a mission to assassinate chief minister Narendra Modi; that they had been intercepted and shot dead by its officers. Investigators have since found it was a fake encounter. Rajinder Kumar is said to have provided intelligence input to the Gujarat cops. Was this to facilitate the extra-judicial killing? But the CBI seems to have weighed the officer’s record and unsullied reputation as it bought time to decide on his culpability. Now, the CBI and IB chiefs would do well to navigate past the gathering storm of inter-agency conflict.
Prosecuting an IB officer for passing on to the state police information that was possibly inaccurate, if not absolutely false, requires a high degree of application of mind. The media has created the unfortunate impression that some subjectivity and politicisation has crept into the CBI’s investigation of Rajinder Kumar’s role. I won’t buy this without solid, substantiating facts. After all, this is an investigation monitored by the Gujarat High Court: the CBI can’t play around with vital facts. If Rajinder Kumar is at all prosecuted, we will be able to arrive at its basis only after basic facts are gleaned from the CBI’s chargesheet.
In my view, the officer can be prosecuted only if he had been mixed up in local politics or was driven by a dubious personal agenda in furnishing false information to the Gujarat police. To fasten him to the crime, we must also ask these questions: Did he directly take part in the encounter? Was he present at the scene? Did he have the authority to aid in the execution of the diabolical conspiracy hatched by the state’s “encounter specialists”?
The IB, it must be remembered, is not a legal entity. It was created by an executive order and is merely an “attached office” of the Union home ministry. It has no powers under the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC), which lays down investigation procedure for the police. So, before an IB officer is charged with criminal conspiracy—as, it is bruited, Rajinder Kumar might be—his role in a questionable encounter must be analysed clinically. If he is going to be hauled up as individual, and not as an IB officer, his mens rea (criminal intent) has to be proved. If, however, he is chargesheeted as an IB officer, the question will be on his legal authority, if any, and its messy entanglement with the crime.
The chargesheeting will also require clearance from the Union home ministry. It is anybody’s guess whether the ministry will accede to a CBI request on this. The ministry will be well within its right to refuse. This is usually not justiciable unless the facts are overwhelmingly against Rajinder Kumar, in which case the trial court could ignore the lack of clearance from the ministry and proceed with his prosecution. But such an action could be regarded as bad in law; a higher court could strike it down.
Even if Rajinder Kumar retires from the Indian Police Service (IPS), as he shortly will, prosecuting him under any section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) will require the home ministry’s clearance. Without such clearance, a retired officer can be prosecuted only under anti-corruption laws. It is all, therefore, quite complicated. There is no clear-cut information available for the media to make the sort of categorical assertions it has made. The column-centimetres and prime-time news slots are riddled with speculation and conjecture. May I call for some responsibility here, in the interest of nursing the morale of the officers of a sensitive organisation like the IB, which plays a crucial role in national security?
(The writer has served as a joint director of the IB and as the director of the CBI.)
Apropos R.K. Raghavan’s column Intelligence Questions, can any system retain this loophole in the name of ‘officer morale’? Of killing people on their whim and then claiming the immunity of being a part of the government?
Raghavan has already proved himself to be an extra-intelligent human being with regard to the 2002 riots cases. This is another attempt to mislead the readers.
Mumtaj Yunus, Sharjah
On June 22, Sunday Guardian (SG) ran a story which said that the interrogation report of David Headley, prepared by the NIA “claims Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative.” This was based on Headley stating that in “late 2005, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi introduced Muzzammil to me.” Headley then says in the NIA report, according to the story, that Zaki spoke of the “Ishrat Jahaan module” as one of “Muzzammil’s botched-up operations.”
In a Facebook post, Mukul Sinha, lawyer of Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Sheikh, one of the men killed in the encounter, pointed to a glaring contradiction. According to the NIA report, Headley himself had told interrogators that he had known Muzzammil since 2002, and Muzzammil had become Headley’s handler around August 2004.
Abhinandan Mishra, who wrote the story, said that “details of the report” had come to him from a “trusted source.” When The Hindu asked whether he had investigated the inconsistency in the report, Mr. Mishra avoided a direct answer. “Mr. Sinha, as a lawyer of Javed Sheikh, is entitled to his views. I stand by my story.”
Activists also point to stories with “misleading headlines” in Hindustan Times.
In July 2, HT ran a story with the headline, “Ishrat Jahan had links with Kashmiri separatists: CBI.” Following a protest letter by Ms Grover, who pointed out that the story made no such link, HT issued a correction, admitting the headline was “erroneous and misleading.”
On July 8, HT published another report, on its front page headlined “IB’s Ishrat tapes: ‘Machlee Number 5’ is code for Modi.” In a mail, the Justice for Ishrat Jahan Campaign said these “so-called IB’s Ishrat tapes do not have a single reference to Ishrat,” and alleged that HT had published a “plug story for IB.”
On July 11, HT did a story referring to Amjad Ali, one of the men killed in the encounter, as Ishrat’s “friend.” This prompted a third letter to the editor, where Ms Grover said the charge sheet showed there was no link between Ishrat and Amjad Ali.
When asked for his response, Sanjoy Narayan, HT’s editor-in-chief, said, “There was a mistake in one headline, and we clarified it immediately. Our reportage on the issue has been objective, and our comment pieces have been clear. Read the paper as a whole rather than just a headline.” HT said it would carry Ms Grover’s letter on Friday.
Ms Grover says all these stories distract from the core issue. “Instead of using this issue to kick-start a debate on implications of encounter killings, the media is lowering the threshold by speaking of ‘controlled killings’ and positing ‘law and order’ as opposites.”
When facts are least sacred
On June 13, Headlines Today played unsubstantiated tapes of an alleged conversation between a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander and men killed in the encounter, supposedly plotting to kill Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. It also produced a letter written by the IB chief to the CBI, pointing out that the IB had prior inputs about these threats. A story on the India Today website stated, “Noted terrorist David Headley has also revealed to the FBI that Ishrat Jahan was a suicide bomber of the LeT.”
A group of civil liberties activists, in a signed statement, has pointed out that the tapes were aired 24 hours before a hearing in the Ishrat Jahan case. “The attempt was to undercut the investigation probing the conspiracy hatched by the officers of the Crime Branch in eliminating Ishrat and three others by somehow tainting them with the terror tag.” Questioning the media for airing tapes “without forensic or voice tests,” they added, “Being the IB’s chosen one for their dirty tricks is not something to be particularly proud of.”
When asked for a response, Headlines Today refused to comment.
But a senior editor in the television industry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Most stories can be labelled as leaks or plants, but what needs to be scrutinised is whether the journalist has authentic facts and documents.” He added that the question of Ishrat’s “terrorist links” was an important one, for “at stake is the credibility and morale of India’s counterterror intelligence agency.”
Vrinda Grover, lawyer of Shamima Kauser, the mother of Ishrat Jahan, disagreed it was legitimate to carry such stories. “In that case, to be fair, say IB has given me this. Say an IB officer is accused and is sitting in a senior position. Say the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which interrogated Headley discarded his so-called statements on Ishrat in its final report as not credible. And tell IB to show the entire NIA document and recording instead of selective leaks.”
[[Your post explains everything about you . Nothing further to add.]]
You had to wait this long? I knew what you are from your very first post. Good that you've decided to shut up. We all will be spared of some nonsense.
Prithviraj , Hyderabad
Your post explains everything about you . Nothing further to add
[[Your response is that of a mentally retarted person who can only view our country in terrms of castes and communities. Is this all that you have learnt in your school and college - doesn't seem like you have been to one ? This is an artice about the IB and you have reduced it to a mere perceived superiority between castes / communities ? Modi realized the utter futility of such diatribe and has Shut Up .Perhaps, you should do the same ?]]
Looks like you've been taught at a Madarssah which is why like many such Muslims (if you aren't one already), you've shut down your thinking faculty and see it is as some kind of a conspiracy against the community. But that's okay, the rest of us aren't, and are able to look at the problems less emotionally. Maybe you should try a regular school, if it isn't too late already. Who knows, you might still begin to think?
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