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'Sherlock Holmes' Or 'Crazed Conspiracy Theorist'?

Satish Verma, the Inspector General of Police headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by Gujarat High Court — the first officer who filed an affidavit in January 2011 terming the Ishrat Jahan encounter fake — is now under scanner for his alleged remarks about 26/11 case, in addition of course to having tried to coerce a witness into implicating IB official Rajendra Kumar.

On July 11 came news that RVS Mani  who, as under secretary in home ministry, was responsible for submitting the two 2009 affidavits filed by the ministry before the Gujarat HC,  complained vide his  letter dated June 24, 2013 that the CBI coerced him into signing a statement he was not in a position to make:

"During the course of recording of the statement, there were differences between the facts in my knowledge and the framing of the same by the IG, SIT, Satish Chandra Verma. Many a fact to which I was not privy to or officially never in my domain during the tenure in Ministry of Home Affairs were coerced to be signed by me. Knowing fully well this would tantamount falsely indicting of my seniors at the extant time.  They (CBI) have recorded some contents under the premise section 161 of Cr. P.C doesn't require signature of the witness."

Then came a report in the Times of India which went on to claim that RVS Mani's letter actually made even more serious charges against Verma, though the headline made it seem as if Verma had actually said it, and it was not just a claim against Verma by Mani: Govt behind Parliament attack, 26/11: Ishrat probe officer:

In what is certain to escalate the already vicious fight between the CBI and the IB over the IshratJahan "fake encounter case", a former home ministry officer has alleged that a member of the CBI-SIT team had accused incumbent governments of "orchestrating" the terror attack on Parliament and the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai.

 R V S Mani, who as home ministry under-secretary signed the affidavits submitted in court in the alleged encounter case, has said that Satish Verma, until recently a part of the CBI-SIT probe team, told him that both the terror attacks were set up "with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation (sic)".

Mani has said that Verma "...narrated that the 13.12. 2001(attack on Parliament) was followed by Pota (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) and 26/11 2008 (terrorists' siege of Mumbai) was followed by amendment to the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act)."

The official has alleged Verma levelled the damaging charge while debunking IB's inputs labelling the three killed with Ishrat in the June 2004 encounter as Lashkar terrorists.

Contacted by TOI, Verma refused to comment. "I don't know what the complaint is, made when and to whom. Nor am I interested in knowing. I cannot speak to the media on such matters. Ask the CBI," said the Gujarat cadre IPS officer who after being relieved from the SIT is working as principal of the Junagadh Police Training College.

Yesterday,

Praveen Swami in the FirstPost

put out the full text of R.V.S. Mani's letter, which, apart from making the earlier reported allegations of coercion against Satish Verma, and also the fantastic charge about 26/11 and Parliament attack case, also says, as Swami highlights:

“He started narrating,” Mani’s letter states, “as to how the 13.12.2001 attack on [the] Parliament of India and 26.11.2008 attacks [on Mumbai] are orchestrated by the Government in power. He stated that both these were with the objective of strengthening the counter terrorist legislation. He narrated that 13.12.2001 was followed by POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act] and 26.11.2008 was followed by amendment to UAPA [Unlawful Activities Prevention Act] wherein even and [an?] Rupees 10 in any body’s pocket can be treated for [as] proceeds of terrorism.”

“I told him he is entitled to his view.”

Former-Home-Ministry-official-RVS-Mani’s-letter by OutlookMagazine

But Verma who is being accused now has also complained of charges of persecution by the Gujarat government. He was joint commissioner (traffic) in Ahmedabad city when he got the Ishrat case but within 16 months he was shunted the Police Training College (PTC) in Junagadh in April 2012 in what was seen as a punishment posting. Earlier this month, he complained before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) that the state government planned to "wrongfully harm him" because of his disclosures in the Ishrat Jahan probe. As the Indian Express reported on July 4, 2013: Satish Verma: Sherlock Holmes of the probe:

Verma defied his colleagues in the SIT to dig out evidence that had been pushed under the carpet and proved the killings to be staged.

The 1986 batch IPS officer faced the brunt of the State Government after this, especially after he got legal clearance to assist the CBI in the probe.

Verma was severely criticized and faced allegations of supporting 'a Muslim terrorist'. However, Verma recorded statements of some key witnesses in the case that testified Ishrat and Javed were illegally abducted from Vasad (Anand) and brought to Ahmedabad. They were later held captive in Arham farmhouse in Gandhinagar and killed early on June 15, 2004.

His biggest move was raiding the forensic science laboratory in Ahmedabad to seize a hard disk containing old photographs of the encounter case. It was these photographs that helped SIT find out that the bodies of victims that were riddled with AK-56 bullet wounds also had 9mm wounds fired from revolvers at close range.

Verma called for Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to reconstruct the encounter that fixed accused cop Girish Singhal and his colleague NK Amin of the crime branch.

Singhal and Amin who said they had fired from a distance, could not justify the original photographs which showed close range shots and difference in measurements of bullet wounds other than AK-56 wounds on the bodies.

Verma also sent the reconstruction report and photographs to an engineering college in Berkley (USA) which said that CFSL recordings were erroneous. Verma's close investigation based on forensic, scientific evidences and witness testimonies gave a clean chit to Ishrat while police records were found against Javed and two alleged Pakistanis Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar.

As a co-investigator with CBI, Verma aided the agency in recording testimonies of important witnesses. He grilled suspended cop N K Amin and G L Singhal in CBI custody.

***

Meanwhile the Hindustan Times had gone further and cited the UO number of an NIA letter to affirm that David Headley had indeed mentioned Ishrat Jahan during his interrogation:

While the CBI has denied any coercion on part of its officials in the probe, the matter seems to be more complicated as home ministry has found statement of Headley in its file pertaining to the encounter. After a senior Congress leader and BJP demanded clarification from the home ministry on whether Headley had mentioned Ishrat Jahan module in interrogation by the NIA on July 5, the home ministry found the NIA note (UO NO 04/2009/NIA/16/104 dated October 13, 2010) in its Ishrat Jahan file confirming the same.

It is understood that the NIA note was shown to home minister Sushilkumar Shinde the same day, who in turn informed the highest levels of government within hours.

Today, the home minister refused to answer the question: Can't Disclose Headley's Statement on Ishrat: Shinde

Asked whether the National Investigation Agency has given any report to the Home Ministry saying that Headley in his confessional statement did not take the name of Ishrat, who was killed in an alleged fake encounter June 2004, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, "The (NIA) report is yet to come".

"Whatever Headley has said, it was before FBI. And we have an agreement between FBI and NIA. So, we cannot disclose it," he told reporters here.

The question has been raised here before, and Praveen Swami emphasises again in his Firstpost post piece Leaked NIA document indicates cover up in Ishrat Jahan case today, while the NIA note has little relevance to the murder investigation, it does raise questions about whether the government suppressed information on Ishrat Jehan’s possible background, sensitive to the political fallout:

Its revelation also raises the question of what then-Union Home Minister P Chidambaram knew about the case—and what role, if any, he had in excising the information from the 117-page publicly-released interrogation.  Chidambaram has refused to discuss the issue, though in September, 2009, he had apparently sought to distance his Ministry from the brewing controversy over the killings.  The home ministry also withdrew an affidavit describing the Ishrat Jehan and the three men slain with her as terrorists, replacing it with a more cautiously-worded document.

Lawyers for the victims have argued that there are contradictions in the timeline involving Headley’s reported conversation on Ishrat with Zaki-ur-Rahman.  In  Para 15, p35, of the NIA report, Headley says he went for his first training with the Lashkar in February, 2002. Later, in para 16, p36, Headley says he went for further training in August, 2002.  Finally, in Para 17, p36, he says he was introduced to Muzammil some time during this year”.

Three years later, according to the NIA, he was again introduced to Muzammil—this time, by their common boss, Zaki-ur-Rahman.

It’s not immediately apparent, though, why two introductions—three years apart, and once as a Lashkar rank-and-file trainee, the second time as 26/11 plotter—constitute a contradiction.

[For more on this, please see: Leaked NIA document indicates cover up in Ishrat Jahan case]

***

Meanwhile, Mukul Sinha —the advocate in the Soh­rabuddin and Kausarbi murder case and the Sadiq Jamal killing—has responded on his Facebook page: Lies, Lies and Rehashed Lies:

Praveen Swami's article titled "Leaked NIA document indicates coverup in Ishrat Jahan case" in First Post dated 16 July 2013 actually looks like a (re)leak of the earlier article by Abhinandan Mishra published in Sunday Guardian on 22nd June 2013 and titled "NIA note claimed Ishrat was with LeT". Leaking the same rubbish repeatedly does not make Ishrat a terrorist.

In our response (http://on.fb.me/14YKFjR) to the Abhinandan Mishra article, we had specifically pointed out the categorical disclosures made by Headley in Para 17, 28 and 33 of the NIA report. He not only agreed to have known Muzammil since 2002, but Muzammil was actually his handler starting from August 2004.

Read on at FB: Lies, Lies and Rehashed Lies

While Sinha is absolutely correct in pointing out the contradictions in the various statements attributed to Headley, which need an explanation, the questions being raised, which were the question for the home minister also, while not having any bearing on the encounter case, is simply this: Did Headley name Ishrat Jahan during his interrogation? And was this fact edited out on purpose? Who did it? And why?

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