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HC seeks CBI response on Azad-Najma Heptulla 'morphed' photo

The Delhi High Court on Friday sought CBI's response on a plea seeking probe into alleged morphing of a photo of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Najma Heptulla in a book published on the country's first education minister.



New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday sought CBI's response on a plea seeking probe into alleged morphing of a photo of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Najma Heptulla in a book published on the country's first education minister.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru issued notice to CBI while asking it to take instruction by November 14 on the plea moved by Azad's grandnephew Firoz Bakht Ahmed who alleged that the morphing was done at the instance of Heptulla when she was heading ICCR.

"It is a short question. If your are conducting investigation, then say yes. If not, than also you say us," the court said.

Meanwhile, the Centre, which was supposed to file its response, informed the court that it won't do so as the matter was not related to it.

The controversial photograph showing Azad seating with Heptulla after her graduation was published in Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) publication titled "Journey of a Legend, on the life of India's first Education Minister". The publication was later withdrawn by ICCR.

The petitioner alleged that the photograph is morphed as Heptulla had graduated in May 1958 whereas Azad died on February 22, 1958 and pleaded with the court for a CBI inquiry in the controversy.

Earlier, the court had said one court has already passed the order directing the CBI to probe into the allegations and bring the same to a logical conclusion as expeditiously as possible. "Why don't you (CBI) put that order in place?" the judge had said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, had informed the court that on July 5, 2006 it had directed the probe agency to continue the investigation with respect to the allegations made and bring the same to a logical conclusion.

Bhushan had alleged that CBI has not yet made it clear

whether the investigation has been brought to its logical conclusion or not.

He had contended that since 2008, the petitioner has been continuously filing RTIs for knowing the findings of the preliminary inquiry into the case.

He had said CBI, on the pretext that it has been exempted from the RTI purview or that the matter is unanswerable under Section 8(1) h of the RTI Act, did not bother to reply.

The advocate had further told the judge that it has been the practice of CBI to shield influential politicians owing to which the inquiry has been pending for nine years.

Following the controversy, the Ministry of External Affairs had said in its reply to a question asked in the Lok Sabha on May 11, 2005 that no official of the ICCR was involved in deciding the photograph and the text of "Journey of a Legend".

"All the photographs and text were personally selected by the then President of ICCR (Heptulla) who had also approved the dummy copy before printing," the petition said.

"For that, the alleged act of the photograph morphing (fabrication) at the instance of the then President of the ICCR (Heptulla) is an offence of forgery punishable under IPC.

"It is apparent from the facts and circumstances of the present case that because the person, accused of the offence, is a high profile politician, efforts have been made by the government, ICCR and CBI to shield her from the criminal liability. Such an attempt strikes at the root of the rule of law and therefore, warrants appropriate interference of this court," the petition said.  

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