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TWELVE extensions in six years and no sign of the final report yet. Is Justice Milap Chand Jain trying to hold on to his high-profile job by seeking one extension after another? Jain's detractors say he is prolonging the inquiry so that he can go on living at his Lodi Estate residence and enjoy the perks, armed escorts and AC car that goes with the job.
But it is not the perks that hold Jain's interest. While he was preparing the interim report in August, he was under considerable "pressure" to stop it. Sources say he was offered the post of Indian high commissioner in the UK—present incumbent L.M. Singhvi was specially flown in by prime minister I.K. Gujral to speak to Jain. Singhvi's term ends on December 31.
The sop came at a time when all other strategies to stall the report had failed. But Jain had learnt to live with roadblocks and he realised that if he took up the London assignment, his six-year effort would go down the drain. He declined the offer.
From its very inception in August 1991, the panel faced a row of hurdles. It had to wait almost a year for the requisite staff. When it began proceedings in September 1992, the Centre's counsel objected to the probe on areas covered by the SIT.
Then, the legal snags. Work was held up from October 1992 to July 1993, as the Centre refused to part with required documents, saying that would hamper the trial of the accused in Madras. Also, the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu did not want the LTTE's pre-1987 activities looked into.
From August 1993 to January 1994, the Rao government requested several adjournments and withheld relevant documents/material. On February 10, 1994, a formal proposal to wind up the commission was put before the Rao cabinet, which was vetoed by Arjun Singh, among others.
From March 1994 to July 1994, work was stalled when a proxy petitioner, Mushtaq Ahmed, filed a PIL in the Delhi high court seeking to scrap the commission on the grounds that it was slowing down the SIT probe.
The commission's term ends in February 1998. In these circumstances, even Justice Jain is not sure whether he will get another extension. Which makes him all the more impatient to collect as much evidence as possible to nail the conspirators.