Delhi: In a sensational revelation, a media house reported on Thursday that BK Prasad, Union Home Ministry official, who headed the probe into the 'missing documents' in the alleged Ishrat Jahan encounter case, tutored a witness to say that he had not seen the files.
As per a report in The Indian Express, Prasad (additional secretary - foreigners) told a witness the questions he would ask and also suggested to him what answers he should give.
He told the witness to specifically say that he had not seen any of the documents.
The probe had been ordered by MHA to identify the circumstances around the UPA government’s second affidavit that dropped references to Ishrat’s alleged links to Lashkar.
Prasad had submitted his findings yesterday and had concluded that the papers were 'removed knowingly or unknowingly or misplaced' in September, 2009, a period when Congress leader P Chidambaram was the home minister.
Only one paper out of the five documents related to the controversial alleged fake encounter case that went missing from the Home Ministry was found, said the additional secretary in his inquiry report submitted to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi.
However, no reference to Chidambaram or anyone in the then UPA government was made.
Based on the statements of 11 serving and retired officers, including the then home secretary GK Pillai, the 52 -page report said the documents went missing between September 18-28, 2009.
As per the Daily, their reporter had called Prasad on April 25, at around 3.45 pm to ask him why the government had denied a visa to Chinese dissident Dolkun Issa who had been issued an e-tourist visa.
Prasad comments were recorded by this reporter on the Issa matter.
While speaking to the Daily, Prasad is said to have put the reporter on hold and took another call which pertained to the Ishrat missing papers probe.
This conversation was also recorded by the newspaper reporter.
The reports says that it was evident that Prasad was speaking to an officer who was scheduled to give his statement the next day on the Ishrat matter.
Later, it was revealed that the officer Prasad spoke with was Ashok Kumar, joint secretary (Parliament, Hindi division and nodal officer for monitoring of court cases) in the Department of Commerce.
Kumar was director between March 1, 2011 and December 23, 2011, in the internal security division of the Home Ministry that dealt with the Ishrat Jahan case.
MHA official caught on tape tutoring witness:
The conversation is quoted by the Daily as follows -
Prasad told Kumar that his probe into the missing papers required him to pose a question to all officers who may have dealt with the issue.
Prasad to officer - “Aapne ye paper dekha? (Have you seen that paper?). “Aapko kehna hai ki maine ye paper nahi dekha. Seedhi si baat hai (You have to say I have not seen that paper. It’s as simple as that).”
At the same time, Prasad reportedly warned Kumar about the consequences of giving a different reply.
He apparently told Kumar that if he didn't answer as told then doubts would be raised about the officer having played a role in the disappearance of the papers.
“Aapko itna toh kehna hoga ki ya toh woh file hi maine kabhi zindagi mein deal nahi kiya, kabhi file ko dekhne ka kabhi mauka hi nahi mila (You will have to, at least, say that either you have never dealt with that file in your life or have never had a chance to see it). I don’t think you have seen that file at any point. Bas, that is what I want from you - I have not seen that file at all,” Prasad told the officer, as per the Daily.
Prasad added - “And another question will be, did anybody give you these documents to be kept separately with you? Aap bologe, nahi, mere ko kisi ne nahi diya. (You will say no, nobody gave them to me).”
The report says that when contacted, Kumar confirmed that Prasad had called him as part of the inquiry.
However, Kumar did not give any details.
Then the Daily an email a questionnaire to Prasad regarding the matter and asked about his suggestions to Kumar.
Prasad is quoted in the report as answering - “You have stated that during my conversation with a senior officer on 25.4.2016 I have told him that I will ask him question on the missing Ishrat Jahan file papers and he should answer ‘I have not seen that paper.’ I would like to clarify that on 25.04.2016 I have sent a questionnaire to Mr Diptivilasa, the then Joint Secy and after 25.04.2016 I have enquired the following officers only - Diptivilasa, the then Joint Secy and after 25.04.2016 I have enquired the following officers only - Mr Dharmendra Sharma, the then JS, Mr Rakesh Singh, the then JS , Mr Ashok Kumar, the then irector. None of the officers, whom I have enquired on 25.04.2016 or thereafter, have replied to any of the queries as quoted by you, i.e., ‘I have not seen that paper’”.
“Of course, in the course of enquiry, I have contacted many of these officers over phone or personally requesting them to appear for enquiry or fixing a mutually convenient date/time for enquiry, during which they might have asked about the nature of questions which might be asked. However, I must mention that the officers enquired by me are all senior officers and have worked in various capacities and are fully capable of answering the questions relating to this kind of probe on their own understanding. The conversation, if any, would have been in the context of clarifying the nature of enquiry. I must add that I have conducted a free and fair enquiry and all witnesses were given total freedom to express whatever they felt," he added.
Prasad is a 1983 batch IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre.
Here's why the probe was ordered:
The one-member panel was constituted after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh disclosed in Parliament on March 10 that the files were missing.
Following an uproar in Parliament, the ministry had asked Prasad to inquire into the circumstances in which the files related to the case of Ishrat Jahan, who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in 2004, went missing.
The papers which disappeared from the Home Ministry include the copy of an affidavit vetted by the then Attorney General and submitted in the Gujarat High Court in 2009 and the draft of the second affidavit vetted by the AG on which changes were made.
Two letters written by the then Pillai to the then attorney general late GE Vahanvati and the copy of the draft affidavit have so far been untraceable.
The controversy surrounding affidavits regarding Ishrat case:
The first affidavit was filed on the basis of inputs from Maharashtra and Gujarat Police besides the Intelligence Bureau where it was said the 19-year-old girl from Mumbai outskirts was a Lashkar-e-Toiba activist but it was ignored in the second affidavit, Home Ministry officials said, as per PTI.
The second affidavit, claimed to have been drafted by the then home minister P Chidambaram, said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that Ishrat was a terrorist, the officials said.
Pillai had claimed that as home minister, Chidambaram had recalled the file a month after the original affidavit, which described Ishrat and her slain aides as LeT operatives, was filed in the court.
Subsequently, Chidambaram had said Pillai is equally responsible for the change in affidavit.
Ishrat, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The Gujarat Police had then said those killed in the encounters were LeT terrorists and had landed in Gujarat to assassinate the then CM Narendra Modi.
(With Agency inputs)