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Ishrat Jahan encounter case: GK Pillai knew of changes in affidavit, says inquiry panel

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New Delhi: The one-man enquiry committee, which probed the issue of missing files in the controversial Ishrat Jahan encounter case, has claimed that former Home Secretary GK Pillai was in know of the changes made in the second affidavit relating to the case which was to be filed before Gujarat High Court.

The panel noted that a draft copy of a letter addressed to then Attorney General late Goolam E Vahanvati by the then Home Secretary GK Pillai on September 18, 2009 has been recovered from the computer of the office of the Home Secretary which refers to some discussions in the chamber of the Law Minister in regard to the supplementary affidavit.

The panel’s claim assumes significance as it was Pillai, few months ago, who alleged that Chidambaram as Home Minister “bypassed him” and had rewritten the affidavit.

“However, the fact that there was some discussion in the chamber of Hon’ble Law Minister regarding filing of supplementary affidavit has not been recorded anywhere on the file either by the Joint Secretary or by the then Home Secretary,” said the panel which has failed to pin-point the people who were responsible for it and rather chose to conclude that it may have been “knowingly” removed or “unintentionally” misplaced.

The first affidavit was filed on the basis of inputs from Maharashtra and Gujarat Police besides Intelligence Bureau where it was said that Ishrat, a 19-year-old girl from Mumbai who was killed in the outskirts of Ahmedabad in 2004, was an activist of terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba but it was ignored in the second affidavit.

The second affidavit, claimed to have been drafted by Chidambaram, said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that Ishrat was a terrorist.

The panel indicated that the documents might have gone missing during its movement between the then Home Secretary GK Pillai and the then Home Minister P Chidambaram and also raised questions over the conduct of a former Joint Secretary D Diptivilas who had received an incomplete file.

After his over three-month long probe during which he examined all the joint secretaries incharge of crucial Internal Security division, Additional Secretary BK Prasad said Diptivilas, who was joint secretary between January 2008 to March 2010, has stated that he had not seen the office copy of the letter sent to the then Attorney General by the then Home Secretary as well as the ensclosure sent on September 18, 2009.

“What he (Diptivilas) has seen was a sealed envelope, which was got delivered to the AG’s office. He said that this letter was not a part of the file. The draft further affidavit which was put up by the Home Secretary on September 23, 2009 as vetted by the AG was also not seen by him and he denied knowledge of seeing this draft amended by the then Home Minister.”

The panel had concluded that “these papers appear to either have been knowingly removed from the file or may be unitentionally misplaced during the period 18.09.2009 and 24.09.2009 either by those who have dealt with this file during the period or by some other officer/staff under whose custody this file would have been during this period.
“..How, why and under what circumstances these papers were missing or were removed from the file, is a matter of investigation and this being an internal enquiry is beyond its purview”.

In his report, Prasad, who ran into a controversy recently for allegedly tutoring the witnesses in the case, said Diptivilas has also stated that the draft affidavit which was put up along with the draft letter to the Law Secretary was not on the file, when it was returned back to him.

“Thus he denied existence of all other documents in the file except the final copy of the supplementary or further affidavit,” the inquiry panel observed.

“… If the statement of the Joint Secretary (Diptivilas) is to be believed to be true, then the only possibility that remains is that these documents were delinked/ retained during the movement of file between the then Home Secretary and the then Home Ministry,” the panel said.

However, the inquiry officer observed, when the file came down to Diptivilas without these documents, he should, at his level, have questioned the absence of these documents.

“Even, given the exigencies of the work load, it is not customary of a joint Secretary to accept a file which is not complete in all respects with certain documents which has specifically been mentioned in the note file missing and not being available in the file.

“More so, in this case, where the file notings were initiated by him on September 18, 2009 and finally marked to the Under Secretary (IS-VI) by him on September 24, 2009 and its return journey,” the panel said.

Only one paper out of the five documents related to the controversial alleged Ishrat fake encounter case that went missing from the Home Ministry was found, said Prasad in his inquiry report submitted to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on June 15.

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 18-24, 2009.

The second affidavit, which was different from the first one, and filed before Gujarat High Court on September 29, 2009, had said there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Ishrat was an LeT operative.

Prasad said taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances of this case and based on his inquiry with the officers as well as based on inferences drawn from the physical inspection conducted by him, it is evident that these papers which have been found as ‘missing’ from the file have not been put up on the file at all and have gone missing during the period September 18-24, 2009 itself and not during any subsequent period.

The papers which went missing are office copy of the letter and enclosure sent by the then Home Secretary to the Attorney General on September 18, 2009, office copy of the letter sent by the then Home Secretary to the AG on September 23, 2009, draft further affidavit as vetted by the AG, draft further affidavit amended by the then Home Minister on September 24, 2009 and office copy if the further affidavit filed with the Gujarat High Court on September 29, 2009.

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 kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The one-member panel was constituted after Home Minister Rajnath Singh had 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 went missing.

The first affidavit was filed on the basis of inputs from Maharashtra and Gujarat Police besides Intelligence Bureau where it was said the 19-year-old girl from Mumbai outskirts was an activist of terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba but it was ignored in the second affidavit, Home Ministry officials said.

The second affidavit, claimed to have been drafted by 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 the affidavit.

—PTI

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