February 20, 2020
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The Probe After The Probe

The action taken report, yet to be tabled, proposes a panel to prosecute the guilty in the Rajiv case

The Probe After The Probe

THE final report of the Jain Commission of Inquiry is set to spark off yet another political storm. Home Ministry officials are working round the clock to put together a voluminous Action Taken Report (ATR) on Justice Jain's final findings—which, among other things, outlines the government's future plans on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination probe and the need to take a closer look at some of the "suspects" (Chandraswami, Subramanian Swamy).

According to sources, the ATR will recommend the setting up of a special committee under the Home Ministry's aegis with powers to prosecute and file supplementary chargesheets. The new team will investigate leads, provided by Jain, on the role played by godman Chandraswami and Janata Party leader Swamy. It is likely to look into four areas: procure an audit report prepared by Price Waterhouse on the BCCI accounts which detail transfer of monies between Chandraswami, arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and LTTE arms procurer, Kumaran Padmanabhan (KP); foreign travel undertaken by Subramanian Swamy and Chandraswami and their alleged meetings with LTTE representatives prior to the assassination; a scrutiny of British Intelligence records on individuals present at Mahant Sewa Dass' meeting with Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan in London; and finally, the unearthing of naval wireless intercepts from Vishakapatnam and the naval headquarters in New Delhi, which have been quoted in former cabinet secretary Zafar Saifullah's deposition.

Set up on the lines of the Anant Ram panel, which probed the recommendations of the Thakkar Commission of Inquiry on Indira Gandhi's assassination, this panel will be headed by a retired director-general of police. Indications are that Joginder Singh, former director, CBI, may be commissioned for the task.

The inter-departmental ATR, which has inputs from the CBI, the Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of External Affairs, has been vetted by the Ministry of Law and will be tabled in Parliament along with the eight-volume Jain report towards the end of this session.

Further, it is reliably learnt, the ATR will also cover areas of investigation which will be handled through the MEA's diplomatic channels. For instance, there will be an attempt to procure the depositions and evidence of Senator John Kiri, who investigated the BCCI scam. These documents, classified "confidential" by the US government, may, on a promise of secrecy, be made available to India. But insiders say that even as the ATR will seek to uncover the role of certain Indian individuals in the larger conspiracy, it may not be as drastic regarding the role of foreign agencies like the Mossad and the CIA.

One problem area will be Jain's indictment that there should have been better coordination between the two intelligence agencies and other wings of the government. Insiders say it will be difficult for the government to pin the blame on individual bureaucrats who, according to Jain, failed to react to intelligence reports or the threat perception to Rajiv's life. For instance, Jain's observation on former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey—"It is significant to note that Shri Dubey was at the helm of MEA and some very material information having a direct bearing on the assassination was revealed to him for the first time but it appears to have been dealt with in a routine way"—cannot be acted upon.

BUT the ATR, it is learnt, will come down heavily on the role of other suspects, who were investigated but not chargesheeted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT). For instance, CBI officals, including deputy legal advisor Jacob Daniel, have conducted a detailed examination of Jain's proposals in Volume VI, which covers a list of suspects and zeroed in on 20 individuals who should be probed further. Prominent among them are Kumaran Padmanabhan (KP); Baby Subramaniam, a central committee leader of the LTTE; Kanthan, a senior member of the LTTE's Intelligence Wing; Chokkan, a Vedaranyam-based smuugler; Kasi Anandan, an LTTE spokesman; Subbu Laxmi Jagdeesan, a DMK member; and Kolathur alias T.S. Mani, a DK activist. The CBI has quoted TADA statements by other accused like Irumborai, Nalini, Murugan, Bhagyanathan and Perarivalan, to conclude that Baby Subramaniam operated in Tamil Nadu till May-June 1990, and recruited many Indian Tamils for the assassination.

Then, the ATR will draw up proposals to strengthen the case against KP—who was reported to be in India during the killing and left for Bangkok from Mumbai on May 26, 1991—by investigating his links with CIA operatives and his BCCI accounts.

But, according to sources, what could be politically embarrassing is the proposal to probe the involvement of former DMK minister Subbu Laxmi Jagdeesan, who had earlier been interrogated by the SIT for harbouring certain accused in the case.

While Subbu Laxmi was acquitted in the case involving the murder of EPRLF leader K. Padmanabha, the bid to investigate her once again—as suggested by Jain—might lead to some damaging disclosures. Equally explosive, in terms of a political fallout, will be the proposal to conduct further investigations against Swamy. But though Jain has cited some circumstantial evidence which casts doubts on both Swamy and Chandraswami, the new team will have to procure clinching evidence in order to establish a case of criminal conspiracy against both.

The Home Ministry has not yet set a time-frame in which these investigations have to be completed, but insiders feel that a probe of such magnitude might easily take up to a year. And despite the government's initiative, the key to the Rajiv killing might still prove to be elusive. Till the air is cleared, Jain's report will once again serve as a convenient handle to settle political scores.

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